Tuesday, 30 November 2010

A Weekend at a Spa

I have not blogged for several days. This was done last Friday - printing on fabric at Bourneville. Dorothy gave me a bag full of foam letters to use in printing. I did try these last August but failed. They looked very blotchy. Since I am managing to print with blocks at Bourneville, I thought I would try again with the letters- and it worked. The secret is applying the paint. If I apply the paint with a brush or a roller, I get paint down  the edges of the letters which smudges when printed. The secret is to spread the paint very thin but evenly on a plate and use the plate as a stamp pad. The paint has to be re-spread after each use. I used the back of a spoon for that. The same phrase has been used over and over as I have a book project in mind and wanted to check that this technique will work for the cover fabric. There is going to be an artist's book exhibition next year in our local library.

This fabric has been printed and over-printed with a piece of string glued down to a piece of card. It did not survive having the paint washed off but is obviously a useful technique.
This Friday we are going to do screen printing.

From Bourneville, I drove straight to Springs which is near Ashby-dela-Zouche and met up with my daughters, Ruth and Anne for a spa weekend. The weather turned cold overnight on Friday but we were busy indoors doing aquarobics, Fitball and Tai Chi, not to mention massages and thalassotherapy (salt water pool with sprays built in). Oh and a bit of gossiping too.

Here are Ruth and Anne relaxing after their exertions.

And Anne is showing off some very fancy nail work!

A fountain in the grounds of Springs. There were some ducks walking about on the frozen surface of the water and looking very unhappy.

And a very nice pot inside Springs.

I reached home before dark on Sunday. Yesterday (Monday) I finished off the second table mat which looks much better. It was washed late last night and I hope to get it in the post today. It has snowed some more overnight but only an inch or so. I intend to get to Cheltenham today to finish my Christmas shopping. I am working on the principle that, if the carer for Michael can get here this afternoon then I can get to Cheltenham and back.

Anne asked me what my plans for a power cut were. After a bit of discussion, I have bought two new hot-water bottles and put Michael on the vulnerable register at npower. You read lots of tales of woe about utilities but the npower telephonist could not have been more helpful. The cupboard is stocked with UHT milk, bread flour and dried yeast and there is bread in the freezer.

I have done a bit more weaving on the Megado but it is very slow as I have to clear the shed for each weft. Only about six inches left of warp though.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Feeling Better - or - Getting Things Finished

This was a few pieces of fabric  from the block printing exercises done last week at the Creative Textiles' class. My samples seem to be all printed in shades of purple and red. I did not realise it at the time although it might have been laziness and just using up any pots of paint that were lying around. 

Annette suggested that we should bring everything done so far this term tomorrow and consider layering techniques and we ought to do some at home. I did not feel up to much earlier in the week but I did consider the two artists I have been allotted, Annette has given us each two artists to write an appreciation of. Mine were John  Rocha and Albert Moore. John Rocha is he of '24 shades of black' and Albert Moore you can be forgiven not knowing. Think Lord Leighton only a bit sombre. Actually his still lifes of flowers are great but you can keep the maidens.  

 Today I dug out all the things to take tomorrow and decided to do something about one of the block printed pieces (Top left above). I added a bigger fish in Mola work. A bit of velvet dyed grey and pink for the body and orange poplin for the fins.

I am also sewing up a Coptic Book containing the sample handmade papers from Wake Robin Mill in the States. The interesting thing is that the papers have a definite smell (I am not good at smells). They seem tobacco-y. Not cigarette, not cigars but the smell of tobacco leaves in a drying shed.

And speaking of handmade paper, I have received the most fabulous (slightly early) Christmas present from my sister, Dorothy - a kit for making handmade paper. I am itching to get at it but I will be good!!!

I have finished weaving a sample table mat, It has been hemmed, measured, handwashed and measured, ironed and measured. It is within specification which is 36 by 46 cm (+/- 1 cm) excluding any fringes. Mine is 37 by 45 cm but I can't use it because I don't quite like the pattern and changed it halfway through 'just to see'. The second pattern is better  so I will weave another one.

Tomorrow I am going on from the class in Bourneville to Springs Spa which is at Ashby-de-la-Zouche to meet my daughters for a weekend there. Usually I spend a lot of time in the pool but I still have a cold so will have to be careful. I did wonder about going over to Uppingham but gave up the idea when I realised it would take the best part of 3 hours aller-et-retour. However there is a largescale Hobbycraft at Tamworth and I shall take that in! I have a list from Michael already.

Monday, 22 November 2010


Yesterday was spent putting things away or trying to find new (tidy) places for them) - and brewing up a vicious head cold. After not sleeping at all well last night, I tottered out of bed this morning feeling wretched but there was no going back to bed for me. Michael had a whole body bone scan today. This involved being injected with radio active material, waiting three hours and then having a gamma ray camera crawl all over you.

This left me with a lot of time to pass which was spent sniffing and watching the hospital at work. Worcester Royal is a big hospital and it has a huge glass block as its front entrance which everyone passes through. Cowering in a one corner is a Costa Coffee which is pretty big but dwarfed by its surroundings.  Do you realise that no-one dresses up to go hospital? All ages and conditions pass through those double doors and no-one but no-one looks smart. They all look anxious whether they are going home or coming in. Few people come by themselves and there is more hand-holding than I have seen for a long time. A middleaged daughter holding her father's hand, a young mother with a stroppy eight-year-old son. She starts to yell at him, remembers something, bits her lip, turns her head away. A very old lady in a wheelchair comforts a middle-aged man (her son) who is crying. Couples (young, old, very old) hold hands. The only people who look happy are from the maternity unit, ecstatic young men carrying bags while she carries the new  baby.

Now I am home, I am still sniffing and unlikely to do anything useful this evening. I feel so poorly that that does not even worry me. Maybe tomorrow.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Proper Japanese Bookbinding

Today I attended a one-day class on Japanese bookbinding run by the Society of Bookbinders. The class was given by Kathy Abbott and was proper - including the making of paper string to hold the text block together. The text block was made of Shoji which is 43gsm Japanese paper. There was no stiffening cover but decorative paper was glued to the text block and the edges folded in, then sewn. Two patterns of sewing are shown, a plain four hole pattern and Kang-xi which is a more ornamental four hole pattern. I have all the materials to make a hemp pattern and a tortoise pattern in the cover paper so I will have a matching set of four books which I will then wrap in a stiffened cover which does have boards in it.

The class took place in the ARK, which is the church hall at Alvechurch. It won the prize for Ecclesiastical architecture in 2007 and is rather splendid. (Photo taken from their website) Light wood everywhere inside. There was a children's dancing class on downstairs in the hall with high windows. We were upstairs and the window to the right illuminated that room along with windows giving out to the other side of the Ark. The church is to the right of the photo and there is an entrance from the Ark straight into the church.

Tomorrow I must try to tidy up!! There are piles of stuff from different projects and I must either finish the project or put the stuff away. At the moment, the house resembles an archeological dig.

Friday, 19 November 2010


I have started dyeing samples with Procion MX for the cover of 'Christmas Carol' This is the first. A bit too much light from the flash. The background is really a uniform iron gray. The next thing to do is trying bleaching the ghost shape. Actually the next thing to do is read the Thermofax Company's website and dispatch the title design to be turned into a Thermofax.

The knots in the ghost warp have passed into the Megado's castle. Normally the warp stick finishes a few inches below the bottom of the photo so I have already gained 10 inches of expensive warp. At this stage, the knots had not met the heddles. Since then the knots have made it half way through the heddles. It is slow going because I have to inspect the shed before each pass, from which you may deduce that I did not cut the knot tails short.  Yes it is slow but I would rather not risk an accident with a pair of scissors. I can clearly get yet another six inches out of this but the knots still have to clear the reed.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Progress on Most Fronts

I have been busy since the last post. Putting everything away after Sunday's class, weaving on the Megado, continuing to rethread the Louet Kombo and fighting with Michael's firm of carers who are being unhelpful. Oh well.

When Ruth, No 1 daughter, was here over the weekend, she admired the Megado's warp from the back and then moved round to the front and admired the fabric even more. The upshot is that it will be made into cushion covers and  given to her for Christmas. I am quite pleased about this because I could not think what I would do with it. There is not enough for a jacket and, in any case, the next warp is for a jacket. I will use a matching plain fabric for the backs of the cushions and should get four cushion covers out of the length. The ghost warp has come into view on the Megado and the next weaving session will see it through the heddles. I left long tails on the knots but I don't think I can rely on getting them cleanly through the heddles and reed so intend to cut them short as late as possible. What this implies is that it is time I started planning the next Megado warp. The yarn is all sitting on the office desk and I have decided in principle what to do but need to sit down and do some sums to make sure I have enough of everything. Then it is space dyeing warps with acid dyes. Did I say I was going to use the design I generated at the Creative Development course in October? Did I also say that Samantha is running another course next September and that my sister, Dorothy, and I have signed up for it already.

We have also signed up with Committed to Cloth for a 5-day course on screen printing fabrics. That is late October 2011.

The Kombo rethreading is now about half done.

I have also spent (wasted) 24 hours with some bug. Since Michael had it and so had our son-in-law, we think this is a family gift. Not at all serious.

This morning Michael and I did a session with mono-printing using acrylic paint and paper. Discovered all sorts of useful facts. Absorbent paper is better than cartridge paper. Flow System acrylics are better than ordinary ones which dry too fast.  Michael has not exhausted the possibilities of paper yet but I have and shall go back to fabric tomorrow

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Japanese Bookbinding

The class worked incredibly hard and, at times, there was total silence in the hall! This shows some of the results. Every one of the ten students managed to make two books although 3 or 4 will have to finish the sewing at home.  They all seemed happy about this and I think some of them will be going on to do more at home. 

The only annoying thing was entirely my fault. I put all my sample books in a plastic crate and added a carton of milk and, yes you've guessed it, I have milk on three of my sample books. I don't see what I can do except let them dry out and hope the stains are not too bad. One has nearly dried out and you would have to know that there was a stain there to notice.  But one has been soaked. Oh well, there is a moral there somewhere.

I have unloaded the car but have no intention of tidying up till tomorrow.

Saturday, 13 November 2010


Yesterday was monoprinting day at Bourneville. I have used this method before when doing City and guilds in Creative Sketchbooks but that was on to paper. I was never very smitten with it. However Annette Lucas (the Bournville tutor) is first rate and produced lots of samples on fabrics ranging from felt to calico to organza and with a variety of paints.  Several of the class had come with the intention of getting on with their piece of wearable (including me). Instead we all mono-printed and had a great time. We used acrylic paints and a textile medium. The purple and black in the photo is felt and it took the paint really well. One interesting fact is that it hardly alters the handle of the fabric. I can see this being used for book covers.

When I got home and displayed the results to Michael, he was very taken with the method and has sent for a tub of textile medium. We don't have any shortage of acrylic paints in this house!!

I did do a little work on my wearable art which is going to be a loose waistcoat with calladium leaves in Mola work on the fronts and the back. The photo on the left shows the back shape. The front is three much smaller leaves in a vertical row. I have space-dyed some silk velvet and am using that as well as odd bits of printed cotton from the stash. So I pinned all the layers together yesterday and intend to sew them up before the next class.

Everything is ready for the bookbinding class tomorrow except the book guide which needs a final coat of varnish. 

And Ruth has arrived from Kuala Lumpur for the weekend so must go and talk to her.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

I have pasted the last few fabrics onto paper for next Sunday except that the arabesques (lower right) is for a cased-in book for me and will not be going to the class! 

I have started on making a book guide, wood sawed up and sanded, first pieces glued and clamped. I have been meaning to make one of these for about a year and I am glad I have got round to it. It does make things easier.

I went to the bookbinding class yesterday and continued with paring bits of leather - and not making a good job of it. These are only practice pieces but all the same - - the level is terrible. I was sitting there gloomily wondering what to do about it all. So much effort (three weeks worth) and nothing to
show for it. And even if the leather was alright, I still have to do the tooling for the title and author. Then a Eureka moment. If I were to dye some calico black and red and use a discharge process or possibly wax, I could get back to a a shape in white on black and then I could have a Thermofax made with lettering in Photoshop andscreen print the title and author. The graphics on the left are a first stab at seeing what it might look like. 

Michael thinks the font for the title is awful. I don't (AND IT'S MY BOOK) so it stands. To start with, I will space dye some calico in black and red and  try a discharge process.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Getting Ready

It was too cold, just above freezing, to paste fabric to paper today. The garage has no heating and it was not so much my comfort I was worried about as the effect of all this cold on wet paper and fabric. If it continues cold, I will do it in the kitchen on Thursday.

I did finish off the student's handbook on Japanese-style Bookbinding which has turned into a monster with lots of graphics and photos and step by step instructions on how to sew a Japanese style book in four variants. It occurred to me that had I started a lot sooner, it would have been a nice touch to bind it into a Japanese book!! Never mind - next time! 

That took all morning although I did manage to get the table mat warp wound onto the Louet and intend to thread up today as well.

Yesterday was a very enjoyable afternoon shopping in Cheltenham with Anne. Spent a lot of money but mostly on Christmas presents. I admit to buying two pairs of trousers and two cardigans. The cardigans were not essential but the trousers were since I don't own a pair which fit me. I am still losing weight although rather more slowly now. That has one advantage. I don't think twice about  eating cake with my coffee when out!! But as that only happens rarely, it would be okay anyway. It has come to something when a visit to Costa coffee counts as a great treat.

Michael has a visitor today - must go and offer refreshments!

Monday, 8 November 2010

Preparation for Next Sunday

I spent Sunday getting ready for next Sunday when I am teaching a class in Japanese -style bookbinding. Note the word 'style'. This is not purist stuff with the correct Japanese paper but more about the stab binding and how to make a hinged cover.

There are piles of decorated paper for covers, all labelled with what they are best for. My grand-daughter made up packs of paper (watercolour, sketch, cartridge and Khadi handmade) for me two weeks ago.

And yesterday I pasted five lots of fabric to paper.

Here they are drying. Each piece should do two A5 books. I ran out of prepared paste and need to do another lot soon, like tomorrow. I aim that the students should make at least two books and hopefully three, even if they have to finish the sewing at home.

I also need to finish writing the student handout. The demo stuff is all done. A last check will be made on Thursday. That will give me time to buy/make/acquire anything that is missing.

Michael did a lot of screen printing yesterday. Last time, he found it difficult because the table was too high for him in his wheelchair so I bought a tarpaulin at Halfords and put it down in his room, put my height adjustable table on top and that was fine. For the first time, the printing was done with Manutex and Procion MX dye and that worked well. The printed pieces are all in the garage drying. I will bring them in later and dry them off indoors.

The warp for the table mat is wound and ready to be put on the Louet Kombo. It has ended up as 22/2 cottolin in dark blue, brown and red with 2 threads of blue to one each of the others. I was getting fussed about weaving for the Christmas cards but have designed the 'table mat' warp to be used for cards as well. 

I am going to Cheltenham this afternoon with Anne, my daughter, to get some Christmas shopping done. At some point this morning, I need to think about what I want to buy!! But the builder is coming back to finish off the door and the McMillan nurse is coming to see Michael so maybe - but more likely it will be done in the car as I drive to Cheltenham.

I went to Kennet Valley Guild on Saturday and listened to a good talk on dyeing by Helen Deighan. Realised later that she talked using samples to hold up and illustrate her points - no slides - no Powerpoint presentation and all quite effortlessly.  The weaving group discussed the projected exhibition in November 2011 and agreed that a rainbow of scarves would be feasible so Rosie Price prepared bits of paper each with a colour written on it and these were handed out. There were some cries of 'Oh, no!!, I hate green' but a certain amount of swapping went on and everyone ended up happy. There will be 16 scarves in all. The idea is that only the overall colour effect is specified. the weavers can use dimensions, yarn, pattern as they please. I got yellow.

Saturday, 6 November 2010


This draft has come out badly in the above graphics file. I forgot until Rosie Price mentioned it yesterday that the guild has a weaving competition in December. Immediate panic. I did have  a plan - but it involved the Megado and I am not removing the ghost warp any time soon. So I downgraded the planned Biederwand on 24 shafts to Summer And Winter on 8 shafts and looked out all my cotton. In my enthusiasm and, dare I say it, haste, I designed the table mat in 2/20s cotton with 2/10s as the pattern weft. Looked great - until I came to think about how many heddles it needed. Too many was the answer and rather more than I have on the Louet Kombo. So I thought momentarily of adding more heddles but realised that, if it took that many threads to get the width, then it was unsuitable as a table mat which, I think, ought to be reasonably thick. Back to the drawing board or, in this case, Fibreworks. and the yarn stash. So I settled for 22/2 Cottolin and the above draft.  This will be down the left hand edge of the table mat.

Yesterday Michael went off to have a blood transfusion - without me -  as the builders were moving in. I assumed that I would get lots of small jobs done but got hardly anything done. Firstly the building work was all very noisy as they tore down a wall. And secondly all the stuff from Michael's room had to be distributed round the house so there was nowhere to work.  But by the time Michael returned at 1530, the new door (wider by 3 inches) was in place and a lot of making good had been done. They will be back on Monday to finish off. And the wheelchair now goes through that door with inches to spare. So mission accomplished.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010


I unwove 8 inches last night. And discovered that the loom driver software (Fibreworks) switches the 'Unweave' command off if you stop weaving or reset anything. This floored me for some minutes. The job got done eventually.

I untied the knots and the tying-on certainly needed correcting. I was shocked at how bad it was. Never before - - -. So I pondered on why this was so bad as I retied. I have one good theory. The warp has been resleyed and has gone from  a reed width of 25 inches to 31 inches. The thread ought to be a straight line from the breast beam, through the reed, through the heddle to the back beam and this line should be at right angles to the reed. That assumes the width on the back beam is the same as the width on the breast beam which is not so here. On the first tying up after resleying, I aligned the heddles with the breast beam/reed line. This is a mistake since there is now a pull sideways. Thread does not like a bend at the heddle and the heddle will be pulled towards the centre of the warp. After 8 inches of weaving, the heddles probably found their preferred position - hence the slack in the threads. We shall see when I start weaving again!!!! I have resleyed before but never more than taking 20 inches to 18 or 22 inches which is not enough to be a problem. The problem is compounded here by the cotton warp being incredibly stretchy.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Japanese Decorative Papers

Some lovely Japanese paper to use for covers. This has just arrived from Falkiners of London for use in my class on Japanese-style bookbinding. I am madly writing up a handout for the class which is taking a long time because of all the graphics I want to generate. I am guessing I am about halfway through.

I need to paste the fabric for covers to paper and will do that on Sunday when (I think) I have a lot of time spare. At the moment, it seems a mad scramble to get through all the domestic chores.

I have started weaving the rest of the multicoloured warp with the red flecked wool yarn as weft but I am skipping threads and it is too poor a piece of weaving so (heavy sigh) I am going to unweave the eight inches I have woven and try again. Not pleased with myself.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Autumn is Beautiful

This autumn has a WOW factor. Driving round the Cotswolds over the last three days has been a real pleasure. But we also have pleasure in our garden. This is Sorbus Joseph Rock, about 30 foot high and glowing so much so that people stop at our gate to have a look. According to the newspapers, this is the best autumn for colour there has been for many years. Certainly the Cotswolds - and our garden - are doing very well.

Another couple of maples strutting their stuff. Osaka Suki has been burgundy colour for weeks and I noticed today that our only maple tree, acer griseum, has leaves that are just turning from green to orange.

Yesterday was the last day at the course on Creative Development. I managed to prepare artwork for several possible warps. These two  are 36 inches long and about 14 inches wide. The warp is horizontal. In both cases, I used my Color-Aid set to select the colours. There are eight colours in the top one and five in the bottom. The final warp is composed of sections from two warps space dyed differently.

The colours don't show too well here but it is definitely much better than the one above which remains me of a brick wall. The one on the left has got some red threads in the warp as well which does lift it.

I did several other examples before this one and have refined the approach which I think will work. Now all I have to do is to carry one scheme out and see if it does work!!! One thing I have discovered is that a sheet of transparent plastic laid over the top of the artwork does give an indication of how much the colour is muted  by weaving. I think a piece of coloured organza might work better and must try that out.

Today has been spent being very domestic. Emptying compost bins, washing, putting more coats of varnish on two silk screens. I should be able to put on the last coat this evening.  Tomorrow I want to do some bookbinding - neglected for some time. I am teaching a class in Japanese-style bookbinding in less than a fortnight and need to finish the handout and make a few samples of the Delia Smith  'This is one I prepared earlier' variety. Not to mention pasting cloth to paper for the covers.


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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.