Thursday, 26 April 2012

Studio Curtains

Curtains it is in the studio. Mostly because I have lots of fabric upstairs. I started by measuring up how much I had and ended up re-arranging all the 'foreign' textiles into an empty cupboard.

This is a red and gold sari bought in Little India in Kuala Lumpur a few years ago. The material is quite heavy and there is 6.5 m of it, 45 inches wide.

This is a 4 m length of brown and gold bought in Tunisia, 56 inches wide. The photo shows one end. The other end is the same but inbetween the fabric only has the occasional line of gold. I will get two lengths out of this and three out of the sari and that will be enough. 

Now I have to wait till it is all finished. It is taking shape nicely. The plumber (to replace a radiator) and the plasterer come tomorrow. After that we are waiting for the windows to arrive. So thanks to all of you who wrote making helpful comments on the curtains/blinds decision.

I discussed the lighting with the electrician  yesterday and then ordered up the parts this morning. 

I have done some textile work. Last night I mended broken threads et cetera in the feather fabric and also mended 3 metres of heavy cotton which I wove more than a year ago and put aside. It is a lovely fabric and I wondered about a jacket as I wove it but it is a very heavy material. I washed it this morning and it is hung up to dry off. It is so thick that it will take some time to dry and I intend to iron before it is totally dry. The current plan is to submit it for the Association Exhibition as yardage. I would like to use it for something to wear. It is hardly a table runner. I invested a huge amount of effort in it. I even planned the colour stripes in great detail and spent a lot of time space dyeing yarn for the warp. I have a lot of dyed yarn left.  When it is dry, I will have to take a 'formal photo, because the Association is judging on photos these days and I will include a photo  in this blog.

One class in the Association's Exhibition is something (anything) in a six inch ring. I had a Eureka moment in Australia and this morning checked that I did indeed have five different coloured spools of 120/2 silk in my stash. I intend to weave a double weave piece (warp and weft interchange) on an 8 shaft loom. I have done the sums and lots of drawing. I think it will work. I will try to draft it this evening. I don't want to set up a warp just to weave a four inch square so I intend to weave a couple of yards of four inch wide silk. I think this could be applied to some commercial heavy silk to make a scarf.

On Wednesday it was back to the Bookbinding class. I have a children's book from Australia dated 1912 and it is falling apart.  It was given to me in 1946. Yesterday I took every page apart and cleaned the old hard glue. from the spine.  Now I have to repair every  one of 200 pages. I will make a jig to hold the pages before next Wednesday. I can't do anything about the covers which have very worn corners but I am going to make a box to fit the book into which will prevent further damage.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The Builders are in residence

The builders arrived at 0830 on Monday morning to insert new windows in the studio.

I had imagined (in my ignorance) that I would be able to hop in and out of the studio to collect things. I was very taken aback when I looked into the room an hour after they arrived. They have piled everything up into a tower at one end of the room and wrapped everything in thick plastic sheet, including the Megado. I managed to rescue some essentials like all my book binding stuff for a class today. And as to how they are getting on, there is a huge hole in the wall with a lot of props and one steel lintel has been put in. The electrician turned up yesterday and we discussed the lighting. Three lots of suspended track lighting, since you ask. With four adjustable spot lights on each track. Today I have to go down to the wholesaler's and order everything. 

And the plumber comes today to install a new radiator.

It is all very unsettling. So yesterday I did a major amount of work on my stash of paper. It was all over the house. I have made room for it on some shelves in the office and assembled everything smaller than A2 there. The trouble is that I have a pile of imperial sheets as well as some A1. I could put it on a high shelve but then it will not be easy to flick through looking for something specific. I could buy a plan chest but A1 plan chests are expensive and more important where would I put it? I am thinking of going round to the local auction house and seeing if I can get something a big cheaper. Still does not solve the problem of where to put  it though.

And I am very worried about the windows. Blinds? or Curtains? Or maybe Fabric Austrian blinds. Pros and Cons. I like Venetian blinds but the window is 2.7m across so there would have to more than one blind, three probably. I don't like that because of the gaps between the blinds. Besides if we get a cold winter, Venetian blinds are not much good. As for curtains, well it is a large stretch to cover and I would not want the windows blocked when the curtains are open. Fortunately There is a 600 mm stretch of wall at each end into which the curtain when open could live. I could have Austrian blinds. These are the ones which are of fabric like curtains but pull up to hang in festoons at the top of the window. These would be expensive. The advantage of curtains is that I am pretty sure I could use material in my stash. I have, for instance some lovely Tunisian curtain material in brown and gold (gold metallic thread)  and I have a lot of that. And there is some really nice sari material. I can't help feeling that making curtains out of the stash would make me feel useful and better!!! Anyone got any thoughts on this problem? The outlook from the windows is due South over the garden.

I finished the new feathers draft on Sunday, took it off and tidied up the Megado. It does not photograph well as all the weft yarn is lurex and you don't get the glitter. It needs a bit of finishing off and then I might make it up next week.

This is a close up which does not do it justice.

This morning I will look at the stash of large paper again and try to sort it out. This afternoon is the bookbinding class. I have a 1912 children's book which has fallen apart and I want to repair. The cover is in a bad way but I don't believe it can be repaired. instead I am going to make a box for it to live in. That will certainly keep me busy all term!

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Swinging back into Things

Some years ago we bought a plant of this paeony and, as it is tender, put it in full sun. In the hot summer two years ago, it gave up. However by that time I had six seeds and got six plants. Here are two of the plants which are about a foot high. They are three years old and this is their first flowering. I have chosen a better spot and they are thriving. I have given away 2 plants and two more are in pots. I must find a nice home for them.

Some months ago I used transfer dyes on a piece of silk and cotton fabric. It turned out nicely and I have been wondering what to do with it. Yesterday I machine embroidered a grass on to it, sewed up the sides leaving a two inch gap and turned it. Then laddered stitched the hole. The right hand view is at an angle so looks narrower. It isn't. The fabric has a very nice handle and I must see how much I have left of it. 

This is a lined shopper with an internal pocket. It happened because I was looking for some way of using a piece of pink cotton stencilled with the same flower stencil you see on the left.  I found a piece of shibori cotton, stencilled it with the Okinawan flowers  and added some birds. When the fabric was finished, I decided it just did not marry up well with the original pink piece so found another piece very similar to this and used it to line the bag. I still have the pink bit left!!

I mended a few broken threads in the Megado warp yesterday and this morning started weaving the new feather draft. It looks good. Today's job is to weave a metre of it. Then I can shut, disconnect the computer and get ready for the influx of builders tomorrow.

I feel rather pleased with having completed two projects already. The upstairs rooms need a good turn out but I can do that when the builders are in residence. I could do with a plan chest to hold all my paper.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Kuala Lumpur Textiles

This is the sum of my haberdashery purchases. Some nice thick silk yarn for braiding and at the right three lots of buttons with relief patterns. The larger ones are fully six cms in diameter and I shall use them as closures for books. Then there are strange shaped sequins and three packets of Chinese fastening. I wanted some of these recently but they are very expensive in the UK so I redesigned the jacket. Now I have enough to last me the rest of my life! They were bought in two wonderful shops in Chinatown.

Then there is this gold-stamped net. A metre of each which I shall share with my sister, Dorothy, and give a piece away to a friend. I was looking for fine silk with gold stamping but this is an adequate substitute. I also bought four metres of fine silk habotai. I could not walk past it at a price of £3 a metre

 This was bought in the Central Market in Kuala Lumpur. There is a specialist dealer in hand woven cloth and I had everything cotton out to look at.  It is 2.5 m long and you can see half of it in this photo. It is worn by men and is wrapped round the waist like a skirt with the centre section (at the top) displayed on one side. The flowers and the central section are woven with thick gold thread and is in the songket technique. I have a piece like this already but is has no gold in it.

I am going to use this piece as a table cloth.
This is a cotton piece similar to the one above but much grander (and it cost more). It has a gold border down each side as well as a very ornate central section (at the top of the photo. It will be added to the collection.
 This was bought in a shop specialising in carved wooden items. Mostly from Sarawak which is probably why they had a few of these. This was the most stunning. It is thick cotton in warp ikat woven on a backstrap loom. It is two metres long and cost me all of nine pounds sterling. The dyes are all natural dyes. I gloat over this. My sister says I should make it into a waistcoat from it - what! cut into it? never!
And this was bought from the first dealer. It is a cushion cover in true songket That is it is gold thread all over. This I am going to use on my new window seats when they are done. 

I have returned home to find the builder has piled stuff everywhere. On Monday he starts to rip the fabric of my house apart in order to put three windows in a blank South-facing wall.  The peachtree on the other side of the wall was moved last autumn and has flowered well in its new home so that's okay. The room was always called the music room when Michael was alive even though it held the Megado. But I have taken it over and it is now the studio.  My son-in-law in KL pointed out that the room would have to be decorated and had I got enough power sockets (answer yes) and was the lighting adequate (answer ARRRGGHH!! no, far from it). So I need to sort that out immediately. The work will not be completed until the end of May because they don't want to order the windows until  they can accurately measure the openings.

We removed  a lot of furniture before I went to Australia but on Sunday I must removed the small things  and also weave a metre of fabric on the Megado. After Monday, I will not be able to use the Megado for four weeks and hope to complete a lot of small projects. Yesterday I unpacked, washed clothes, put things away - and even made a rather grand shopping bag in the evening.

Michael was always of the opinion that the best bit of going on holiday was coming home and I am enjoying myself. On the topic of Michael, he would have hated Australia and would have strongly disapproved of the flight arrangements. Oh well. So did I when it came to it.  It has made me rethink the planned trip in 2013 to African safari camps with the last of the grandchildren.  A great deal of blue pencil is going into the travel agent's suggestions.

And one last detail of the Australian holiday. I had been warned about passport officers being sceptical about children travelling with an adult of a different name so I got each of the mothers to write a letter saying I had permission to take them on holiday. Well no-one ever fussed - until we got home to Terminal 3, Heathrow when the Border Control officer sternly asked Madi where her parents lived and had she got proof so I explained that I was the grandmother. He did not think a lot of that but, when I said, I have a letter from her mother with all the details, he wanted to see it and then was all smiles. So there. Be warned.

Thursday, 19 April 2012


We visited an elephant sanctuary out of the city. About 90 minutes drive. It is in the jungle and the photo is of Madi and Louise riding on an elephant. Not me. Been there, done that. I don't like the swaying motion.

Yesterday we went shopping in KL. I ended up in a very posh Malaysian textile shop and had all the woven cotton out to look at, then bought 2 pieces and a cushion cover  which made the owner's day. Later on, in a shop selling carved wooden items, I came across a pile of backstrap woven cotton ikat from Sarawak, very nice and disgracefully cheap. So I had to have a piece.

Robin said he knew an interesting shop in China town. This turned out to be a haberdahers!!! Oh my. Fortunately bags of beads and buttons don't take up much luggage space. Speaking of which, I must go and start packing.

The next blog will be from home.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012


Yesterday we went to the Krafts Komplex and had a session doing batik. The tutor provided three or four Lever Arch files of designs, all about A4. Having selected one, we had to trace it onto a silk square stapled tautly to a frame, then draw over the tracing with a tjanting full of wax. Then paint it! The above is mine. What was unexpected was that the colours were much brighter after being set to dry in the sun. We were  also given bookmarks each with a piece of batik on it. I bought two more 'chops' (metal printing pieces to be dipped in wax and print the batik design on to cloth) for my sister. I shan't be back so must make the most of this trip. Robin, my son-in-law, and I have got much better at assessing chops which are all old and second hand and we rejected quite a few.

Later in the day we went to the cinema (dreadful film called 'Battleship') and then to a dumpling house where we met an old friend of mine from my British Aerospace days and gossiped about people and places. He is currently building a railway for the Malaysian Government.

Today we are going to an elephant sanctuary . Should be good for photos.

I seem to be thinking about projects to be done when I return. I had an idea about a length of Diversified Plain Weave I wove some time ago with a feather design. It is only a metre long and so is not much good for anything. My latest idea is to weave some more using the warp currently on the Megado!! I created a new draft this morning. Then I can make a waistcoat. Simples!!

I have also thought up something which I can submit to the Association's Biennial Exhibition. There is a class for anything contained in a six inch ring. I have checked on deadlines and I have just enough time once I finish off what is on the Voyager. I am going to use the 120/2 silk. I have been wondering what to do with for some time for that will be interesting Double weave with warp and weft interchange..

Sunday, 15 April 2012

The Last of Australia

This was taken on the last day in Australia. It has to be said that the Opera House is fantastic. The ferry terminal is just to the right of the picture and all the time, there are  boats. Big ones including a monster cruise liner called Rhapsody of the Sea which towered over the quay side, middlesized ones crossing the harbour and tiny water taxis which hold four people rushing about. I had not realised that, behind the Opera House, are the Botanical Gardens with wonderful views of the harbour. They were having a first rate exhibition of botanical paintings when I visited.

Madi and I went to the Museum of Contemporary Art, just across the street from our hotel. Very, very good. I know of nothing of its quality in the UK. There might be something in Europe but I have never visited it.

So after a Saturday spent travelling to Singapore and this morning getting from there to Kuala Lumpur, we are all at peace here in KL staying with my daughter, Ruth. The washing machine is working overtime and a barbeque is under way. We have had the afernoon thunder storm. I have made arrangements to meet an old friend who now works here. Tomorrow we are going to have a batik lesson. I need to shop for fabric in China town and Little India. A visit to my favorite bookshop is lined up.  Australia is fading into faint memories of a bad dream.

Friday, 13 April 2012

More on Mountains

One of the many views from the cliff edge. You can see in the background the endless forest. No roads in there. Yesterday we hired a 4 by 4 and a guide to drive it and went down into the valleys and were driven around. Saw kangaroos which were wild but very fearless. Mile after mile of forest - where there were a few dirt roads.

I was lucky to get these two. Mostly they fly away from people. Lots of them about. They are rosellas. There is another species which is blue-green. Last night we drove back to Sydney - at rush hour - with a major pile-up on the motorway. Reached the Hertz depot at 1930 to discover they close at 1730. Then we had to negiotate  the traffic again to get to the hotel!! This morning I got up early and returned the car. Today we are supposed to be going across to an island but it is now 0930 and no one else in the party is  up. Don`t care much actually. This whole trip was a big mistake. I had a long chat to our driver yesterday who said that Heron island, and indeed all the  Reef resorts, have ruined their surroundings and it was a big mistake to go there. It was all a con. I was glad to have my suspicions confirmed but  it does not make up for the disaster.

That's it for now. Next entry will be in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012


We are now up in the mountains west of Sydney and very beautiful they are. It is very cold - snow on the wind. I may have to buy everyone a woolly tomorrow if I am going to get them to walk in the forest. We have had a walk round and viewed the attractions. Tomorrow we will go down into the valley and walk in the forest. There will be no photos in this blog because

a) I have not taken any here
b) I am being a mean Scot. The computers in the lobby are free but using an internet connection in my room costs - a lot although not as much as in Sydney.

My bill in Sydney was horrendous due to internet access by us all.

Sydney is a big city with a rather nice harbour - enough said.  Yesterday I travelled out to a Museum at Sydney University. The notes on hours of opening say nothing about the total closure of the University over Easter so I found everything closed.  That's about par for everything in Australia. It all goes wrong. However today has been a distinct improvment. We stopped off to see kangaroos and koalas on the way to the mountains.

It is hoped that normal service will be resumed shortly.

Saturday, 7 April 2012


On Thursday 5th April, we left Heron Island on a helicopter - which was a good opportunity for an aerial photo of Heron Island. It was low water and you can clearly see the reef - and the only channel into the harbour.

The helicopter only took 20 minutes in place of the more than 2 hours by boat. We then had to wait in Gladstone  for a plane to Brisbane, which was late, just caught the Sydney flight by 1 minute or so (but our luggage did not) and arrived at our Sydney hotel, very late and minus luggage. It did turn up next day lunch time. 
Gladstone is a mining/natural gas town and late afternoon on Maundy Thursday, the airport was heaving with large men in hard hats going home for the holiday week end.

This looks like a Morning Glory but is not going by the leaves. The flowers are bigger than one of those anyway - at about 4 inches. A lovely colour

This is what got Heron Island its name - but actually it is an egret not a heron. There are many of them, both grey and white.
We have 'done' the Opera House and the Botanic Gardens which are bay side. Today I took everyone to Bondi Beach and Chris and Madi had a surfing lesson. The Beach was full of families with loads of children. We had an Italian Lunch on the beach which was very good. But I am being cleaned out by the costs. The smallest round of food for the four of us costs  $100.00 which is more than £70.00.  So three meals a day and a round of icecreams costs me over £250.00. I can see a serious retrenchment taking place when I get home. Bread and water for six months.

Tomorrow we have a cruise organised which is paid for. I shall encourage everyone to eat as much as possible.

On the textile side, I have created several good drafts for the Diversified Plain Weave on the Megado. One lot is for 2012 Christmas cards. Another lot is a whole set of fireworks. The Midlands Textile Forum has a big exhibition in November on the theme of 'Festivals' and I thought a piece 2 yards long of fireworks would be interesting. The orginal warp length was 11 yards and I have used at most 2.5 yards so plenty to play with. 

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Arrival and Departure

On 30th March at 1330 I left home. We picked up my grand-daughter, Madi, from Leamington, drove to Heathrow, caught a plane to Singapore, picked my grandson Chris at Starbucks there (!!!I kid you not), caught a plane to Brisbane 2 hours later, caught a plane to Gladstone from Brisbane by the skin of our teeth (blame Customs and Passport control for that), caught a launch to Heron Island. It was then Sunday morning (where did Saturday happen? Not around me). The journey out through the estuary was lovely, calm seas, blue skies, nice breeze. lots of nice things to see. And then we reached the open seas and it was dreadful. Chris was very ill, Louise was ill, I would have been ill but I was too busy worrying about the others. Half the ship (about 60 people) were ill.  When we got to Heron Island, Chris got better very fast - and I succumbed to all the stress and had a heart event which meant I went to bed and stayed there till next morning.

Heron Island is in the Barrier Reef, lots of snorkelling and scuba diving. Lots of birds including mutton birds who yodel all night. Starfish on the coral, sharks (little ones), rays, very big ones. There are 100 rooms on the island and it seems quite full at the moment. Lots of birds. It is very tropical. I have lots of photos but they will not be on this blog until we reach Sydney where I am hoping for cheaper internet access. The telephone is very expensive too and, of course,there is no mobile signal. We are, after all, 2 hours sailing from the main land. Once a week they have a barge delivery, that was today. The electricity comes three diesel generators, the water from a desalination plant. They use grey water for the toilets and irrigation.

Tomorrow we are going to Sydney. The idea of a repeat of that boat journey followed by two plane hops to Sydney was too much for me and we are flying out by helicopter tomorrow afternoon. The others are very excited about this. I was more excited by whether my Bank would honour such a large debit on the account - it was honoured.

So there we are - I would not come again. Better to buy a book of photos,


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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.