Tuesday 28 February 2012


On Saturday, I had an urgent call from my daughter, Anne. Alex had to go to school on March 1st dressed as his favourite character from a book and it was the Gruffalo. What could I do? So this took up all of Sunday and is definitely recycled. 2 old bath towels, some purple sheet foam (what on earth did I think I was going to do with that?), some gold ribbon stamped Hotel Chocolate all over and some black ribbon from net-a-porter. The only thing I had to buy was some elastic for the neck. The tail is not very clear in the photo but is  made of brown wool and mohair from the yarn stash plaited and with a huge knot at the end. Amazing what a granny will do!!!

My sister, Dorothy, is staying with me for two weeks and has brought a lot of textile work with her. She is having an open studio in September and has decided to finish off a few projects. She believes in working on textiles first thing in the morning so by elevenses we have a lot to show!!  It is having a good effect on my pile of projects.

I finished off the cover for Omar Khayyam, using the Thermofaxes and then JetFx to get the title et cetera on. Yesterday I pasted a lot of pieces of fabric to bank paper ready for use on book covers. I have done several for Dorothy who intends to make books when she is here. They were all dry this afternoon and we removed them from their boards and scrubbed the boards ready for the next bout which will be  at the weekend. Dorothy has more pieces of fabric and I have some upstairs which I would like to do. 

I have had several big jobs hanging over my head and this morning I got them done!! This weekend is Kennet Valley Guild meeting and it is the annual session on 'teach the weaving beginners  about drafting.' But as I teach them by making them weave paper, I have to prepare all the paper warps and cut the weft strips. It is all done, in a tidy pile of handouts and necessary example books with Post-it notes all at the ready. 

I also revised the notes I had written for the Complex Weavers Tied Weave Group and added a section on the work on the 12 shaft loom. That took a bit of time and has been distributed.

And if that was not enough, we took Jake, Dorothy's black collie cross, for a long walk on Castlemorton Common and paid our respects to pollarded trees. I noted that someone is actually pollarding some of the trees which is great.

I just might start winding the next warp now!!!

Saturday 25 February 2012

Severn Bridge

I report here on a local matter which has infuriated/amused the locals. We live on the West side of Severn and must cross the river in order to get access to England. Go the other way and you are in Wales in no time. The Severn is a very big river and there are only a few bridges . During any flooding, I have to plan very carefully to go East. Sometimes it is necessary to drive into Wales and pick up another road to get over a specially high bridge at Bristol.

This blog is about the bridge at Upton-on-Severn which is my preferred route to the South. It was built in 1940 and is quite high as there is a lot of river traffic. In 2011 it was thoroughly refurbished and there was a lot of consultation with the locals about what colour to paint it. Eventually duchess blue with touches of  gold was selected. It was wrapped up in plastic sheeting for months while it was painted and, when the plastic was removed, it was -- Turmeric yellow with touches of black. Instant uproar. Choleric inhabitants of Upton, furious Council, local papers having a field day. It had been very disruptive of traffic with a complicated traffic light system. And I might say, it was a very nasty shade of yellow.

In January, they started wrapping it again and it is still wrapped up. Except that when I drove over on Thursday, some of the plastic had been removed and I could see the new paint scheme. Gorgeous. A lovely shade of mid blue verging on dark blue and real gold touches. Worth the trouble. It will be quite something when it is finished. In the meantime, we are back to the complicated and slow traffic control system and long delays. So I must leave early to get to the Weaving Class - and to add to everything, they have closed the motorway.

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Coptic Book in Walnut

Yesterday I had a day's teaching in binding Coptic Books from Lori Sauer at Pewsey. The teaching was on two particular aspects - which I had no experience of. The first was the use of thick wooden covers with holes drilled in the edge and stitched through the covers. The covers were quarter sawn walnut 6.5 mm thick. I was nervous about drilling into the covers at an angle but it all worked although not perfectly aligned and tidy. This was child's play compared with the next bit which was the real reason for going. Coptic books tend to swivel on the back stitching. Putting on a head band , which is the stitching across the covers and textblock at  the top and bottom of the book, goes a long way to sorting that out. 

 But it is not easy and I spent a lot of time unpicking the stitching. Lori was very patient and I mostly did the second section myself. I have notes but I need to make another one very soon - like today but that is not going to happen. Her method of stitching across the spine of the book is good as the chain stitch shows up clearly and the tension is even. It does mean working with four needles at once!!!

It was a long day. I left home at 0730 am and got back home at 0700 pm. So nothing got done last night.  The Omar Khayyam book is not going to get finished today!!

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Cover for Omar Khayyam

Above are four versions of the book cover for Omar Khayyam. These were made using the Thermofax stencils I had made. using Permaset Textile Inks. The top two were not quite registered but I quite like the effect. The bottom right is supposed to be 'IT'. 

I have prepared the text to be made - based on a scan of the book's title page and I have rigged up a method of auditioning the text and its position on the cover.

The text will be applied using JetFX paper which  allows the background to show. My only worry  about the text is the font size of the title on the spine. Fortunately I have four test pieces to play with!!! The exact position of the first verse on the back is not quite settled either.

The Megado weaving progresses. I have only 15 inches left to do. I am off to Devises to a private course in Coptic binding today and should be back by six. I have to complete the Omar Khayyam cover this evening as the fabric has to be stuck to paper and must dry over night.  I want to finish the book at the class tomorrow. But I am hoping to finish the weaving as well. Probably over ambitious!! 

I have come up with several designs for work to be put into the St Martin's Exhibition. This includes a panel about the Omar Khayyam cover - well it is a Legacy.

Sunday 19 February 2012

The View From the Megado

If I sit at the Megado and turn my head to the left, this is what I see - houses climbing up the Malvern Hills an, of course, the roof of the house next door which is higher than us. The little edging of green at the bottom of the photo is the top of the separating laurel hedge - which is 10 foot high on my side!!!

Yesterday I went to a meeting of the Midlands Textile forum in Birmingham and visited the Rag Market. Everyone else at my Bournville class talks about what bargains they get there so I decided to case the joint. I spent less than fifteen pounds and came home with 100m of cling film, 100m of parchment, 10 metres of 4 inch wide yellow ribbon for the blanket, 10 metres of narrow black ribbon as well as two pairs of fabulous Tokyo-style knee-his. The latter came in packets written all over in Russian!!! Don't ask. And there were other oddments too. It is a great place of yardage - but it is mostly aimed at the Indian market and is chiffon, taffeta et cetera. The ribbon is to die for - especially if you want bling!!!

The weaving on the Megado progresses. I have woven more than four feet and and more than half way. The meeting yesterday was a bit of a shocker - I have a lot of weaving to do before I leave for  Australia. So the Megado must be finished.

Friday 17 February 2012


There is a story behind these flowers. When we moved here 27 years ago, there was one hellebore. We did a lot of replanning and rebuilding of the garden, by which I mean we had the builders in!!! Eventually we got round to the hellebore patch to discover that it had had lots of seedlings and they were all flowering!! Some were lovely and some were awful but they were all very healthy so we dedicated that bit of garden to them. I rogued the poor ones and let the rest get on with it  and they repay us every year with a 15 ft long , 3 ft wide bed of bloom. They have been in flower for a month and I guess we have at least another 6  weeks to go.

I was worried about our snowdrops. Two weeks ago, they had not broken through the ground. Where were they all? What were they up to? I can report that they were just resting. Theye have come into full flower in two weeks.

There is nothing to show on the textile front. I have managed to speed up the weaving rate on the Megado. The problem was the sticky, hairy warp and it is double cloth. I was sitting at the loom clearing each shed manually and suddenly thought, 'I've been here before - the Newbury Coat'. Our weaving guru, Mr Skidmore, told us to try spray starch on the Newbury Coat and it worked. I had a can left over from that so I tried it and it makes an enormous difference. At least the warp yarn itself is not disintegrating which held up weaving the Newbury Coat. I managed to weave one foot yesterday and hope to weave two feet today. Blankets fortunately are not large and I think there are eight feet on the Megado.

Tomorrow I am off to Birmingham to attend a Midlands Textile Forum meeting. I will go to the Rag Market before hand. I have been meaning to make this visit for two or three years.

Wednesday 15 February 2012


Last Saturday, there was a Kennet Valley Guild weaving class. The improvers are weaving patterns into infinity - and beyond. The 12-shaft loom came back with Shirley's piece cut off and it looks beautiful. I am pleased because I get very nervous about handing out drafts I have created. Anyway Shirley did not run into any trouble and the loom has gone to the next student.

At the coffee break, we discussed THE PROJECT. The Kennet Valley weavers are going to submit a group project to the Association's Exhibition this summer. And even though there was a lot of hand waving and not too many facts to clutter up the mind, 12 out of the 13 weavers said 'Yes, yes'. The 13th explained that she was already doing a Guild project for Berkshire Guild.  So I have to invite a lot of other people. On Sunday, we met up with a few more  weavers and got them all signed up. I am hoping we get 25 people. Each person will have to weave something like a foot square piece using a standard colour warp and any weft they want to. Rosie Price and I are already collecting suitable weft yarn although we shall buy the warp yarn. What, you ask, has the photo of four skeins of mohair got to do with this. Well on Sunday I was at a Braid Society meeting at Aldbourne and there was this mohair  for sale, flecked with multicoioured bits of cotton.    The base colour was pale grey and my reaction was, if I dye that using acid dyes, then the cotton flecks will stay undyed and they did. It shows up best on the yellow and green. So that has occupied a bit of time this week. Note that I am not telling you what THE PROJECT is - I am very wary of the rules about publication and will show photos atfter it has been accepted. 25 times 1 square foot is a large object!!!!

I have got the Megado up and weaving - again no photos because it is a present and I know the recipient sometimes reads this blog. Look nice.

At Bournville last Friday, we did more Procion MX dyeing. I did several pieces of shibori - including this piece in pink and sage green. When I opened it up, Annette, the tutor, said, 'Oh it's a garden with marigolds' and I said, 'It is supposed to be spiders' webs'. Over the weekend, I decided it was neither - it was dandelions. So this is where it has got to today. I did audition some leaves but they were too virulent a green. I could just machine stitch the outlines of some leaves on the sage green bits. But I don't fancy unpicking them if I don't like them. So currently it is pinned up on the wall and I will think about it.

My Thermofaxes for the Omar Khayyam book cover have arrived and I must use them. All in all, a good week.

Friday 10 February 2012


I have realised that there are photos on the web of the exhibition at Staffordshire University's Betty Smithers Collection   See here.   There is a photo of 'More Shoes' in No 20.

 After all the nice stencilling yesterday, I turned to the cover of a book I want to rebind. It is a copy of Omar Khayyam and belonged to my father. I have a design which is of the roof line of an Oriental city with a tower and I cut a stencil for it. Yesterday, I created the sunrise and painted the city but today I do not like it. Amongst other problems, it is too ragged. Part of the problem was my mean Scottish soul which used up jamjars of an old mix of acrylic paint and textile medium. The idea is use JetFx to get the title et cetera onto the cover. Despite adding more textile medium, it has all dried very stiff and is likely to crack when wrapped round a book. Woe is me. As I have already dismantled the book, I have no going back option. So possibilities are

1) Use the existing stencil and make up a new mix
2) Use the existing stencil and use textile inks
3) Abandon the existing stencil and get a Thermofax screen made. In which case I could use acrylic paint + textile medium. I will have a play in Photoshop and see if I can get a good city roofline.

With the usable left over mix, I painted these pieces of cotton and they have come out well. They will be usable.

Now off to Photoshop

Thursday 9 February 2012

Stencils and Textile Ink

I decided that the time had arrived to look at the Okinawan Bingata stencils and use my new textile inks. (Thank you Chris Fletcher) The top two prints were put on with a paintbrush over the stencil (anchored with paper tape). The left one used a quarter inch brush, the right  one was done with an Okinawan bingata brush which is used up and down with a dabbing motion. Neither is a good print although the Okinawan brush is better. The lower two were done through a silk screen. I taped the stencil to lower side of the screen and voila or we have lift-off or Eureka or something.

 The above stencil is a ball with some simple flowers. The next one is detailed chrysanthemums.  It is printed on a piece of cotton, space dyed by me as is the green fabric in the first photo. I like these.

And this is a stencil of cranes, again on a spaced dyed piece of cotton.

The inks are 'Permaset' and I heat fixed them with an iron. There are some points about these inks.
1)They take a time to dry.
2) Nevertheless the screen gets caked quickly and the screen has to be washed out promptly. Should be treated as though they were acrylic paints.
3) The colours when first applied are quite dark but they lighten as they dry. 

The stencils are fragile and also are positives, that is, they are intended to be used the way round I have used them. The larger bingata stencil is mounted on silk but is a negative. In other words, I should push a water-soluble resist paste through it, let it dry and then hand paint it. This is what we did in Naga City (Okinawa) and the painting was done with the dinky special brushes. But that is for another day. 

Wednesday 8 February 2012

Grandchildren Minding

Last week I extolled the beauties of the Mediaeval Manuscript Exhibition to my son-in-law and I spent yesterday minding the grandchildren while he went to London to see it. Since they spend most of the day at school, I took my sewing machine and a lot of bits of pieces, including two pieces of fabric created to reflect tree bark and created yet another bag. By the time I had backed this piece with a larger piece of cotton and fused a lining to it, sewn the outer bag together, sewn the lining (including pockets), assembled the handles (brown velvet ribbon sewn to webbing) and put the lot together, there was only an hour left before the children reappeared demanding food.

This side was created at the Bournville class about a year ago.

Here is the other side. This one was created at the NEC Quilt Show last August. They are not linked by the fact that the two sides are about bark and are brown(ish). It might have been better if I had created two more pieces which were a better match but that's hindsight for you.

This is part of my 'try to finish a few projects' blitz. Today I will finish off four copies of Michael's Morning Glory book at the Bookbinding class and prepare for a class on Coptic binding in 10 days time. I am taking a class with Lori Sauer in Wiltshire. There is a bit of Coptic binding that I have never done satisfactorily. 

And then there is the Megado waiting to be tied on.

Sunday 5 February 2012


Yesterday the weather forecast was for lots of snow and I was in two minds as to whether to go to the Kennet Valley Guild meeting but, in the end, decided I had better as I had several pieces of dyeing to return to their owners and, in any case, Rosie Price was ill (cold/flu) and the beginner weavers had to be talked to about yarn calculations.  I had arranged with my daughter, Anne, that I would phone her at 1 and she would read out the weather forecast because horrendous things were forecast in the way of snow. My worry was driving home over the Cotswolds. 

At 1220 I had done all the things which I had to when someone pointed out to me that a clear sky outside had turned black and nasty so I fled. Anne at 1 o'clock said that it was already snowing hard further North. In the event, there was no snow over the Cotswolds and none in the Severn Valley until I got off the motorway and approached the Malvern Hills when all of a sudden there it was - the white stuff. When I got home, there was already a lot lying in the garden and half an hour later it was seriously thick. The road outside the house is very steep, fairly major and it's a bus route. There was one car trying to up the hill about half an hour after I got home. Then nothing and they have clearly stopped the buses. Last year I helped dig a bus out which got stuck across my gate.

So I will concentrate on threading the Megado and tidying up, doing post, binding books and think about making a bag. I have come across two really nice pieces of fabric worked in Mola work and think I will make a bag out of them.

The above is a double page spread plus one page fold out from three volumes of Latvian textiles I have on loan. The owner wants to find a good home for them and I have made several suggestions. The text is in parallel Latvian and French and contains lots of sketches of people in costume as well as many examples of patterns such as the one above. There is the occasional weaving pattern - but not as a draft, just as above. The ones I have come across  look like overshot.  How do I know they are weaving patterns? Because they say 'Tissage en lin' underneath!! which is French for 'Weaving in linen'. Now I come to think of it, the patterns I have seen would good in white on white. I must go through the books and take photos of all the weavings. I dare not scan them  as each volume weighs over 3 kg and I am afraid of tearing a page. The background is that the books were originally published between 1924 and 1931 and were republished in 1991.  They are pristine. No ISBN number that I can find.

Thursday 2 February 2012

More Words and Images

This is my latest effort on the theme of 'Words and Images'. It is a calico shopper with letters in words and the other side - - - -  -

has the word Images - but written in fabric with images. A bit jokey but good fun.

Probably more important (to me anyway) is that I had another onslaught on documents.  And I have started on the sectional warp on the Megado. It should be finished the threading today.

I discovered recently that I have no copy of Michael's Morning Glory book for myself so I prepared to bind four. Two are completed and are in the press and two have their covers drying out. They can be finished tomorrow.

I have an easy weekend ahead and am looking forward to completing a few projects.

Wednesday 1 February 2012

More Indigo Dyeing

Yesterday I went to Birmingham with an indigo vat in the boot - plus all the bowls, buckets and tools needed. The meeting was organised for the Midlands Textile Group but various other people came too. The primary purpose was for Sarah Cage, the hostess, to show people how to do natural dyeing. We worked in her conservatory  and everyone did lots of 'stuff'. The photo on the right is a piece I created at Committed to Cloth last autumn which I have got to dislike more and more. So this is after clamp resisting and a few minutes in an indigo vat. Much improved in my opinion. I believe that this is because the eye sees the clamp pattern first and the words are now subdidiary.

 I did several skeins of wool and the ikat warp and four balls of white 3ply  as shown on the left. I dunked each ball in the vat by about two thirds.  The final result of one ball when in a skein is also shown. Mottled blue would be a good description
I have been given this tea towel recently. Isn't it gorgeous? It certainly will not be used to dry dishes! It is currently pinned to my design wall in the 'Studio'. I must get used to calling it instead of the 'Music Room' which is what is was when Michael was alive. We held concerts in there!!

Until the new bookcases arrive (next week?), there is no point in having a major clear out there but I am doing a bit of preparation.

And another present!!! Aren't I the lucky one!! And they also are pinned to the design wall.

Apart from washing all the indigo  dyed yarns today, I have made two copies of the Morning Glory book. I gave away a lot at Christmas and did not realise that I had none left at all. I will make another two tomorrow. I am not committed to anything tomorrow and I hope to work my way through a lot of odd jobs.


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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.