Friday, 30 April 2010

April showers

It has been a typical April day of sunshine and showers. It was a beautiful morning and on my usual tour of the 'estate' with my first cuppa of the day I glanced up and saw a pair of swifts wheeling across the sky. I've been looking for them all week, they usually arrive here in the first weeks of May, so they are about on time. I haven't seen them since, but there will be more. The morning had another 'gift' for me, a parcel from my sister.  First I found this bag.

My sister lives on the Isle of Wight, and although in miles it is not very far to drive, only 100, it is considerably more when you add the hour on the ferry from Southampton, so  not only does it ages to get there, it is not cheap, I believe pound per mile the Solent is one of the most expensive expanses of water in the WORLD! So we exchange lots of e mails, phone calls and parcels instead. At the beginning of the year she said she was going to send a package each month - this is  the May one!  Inside the bag I found this rather lovely box, full of lace...
The box lid is covered with dyed pelmet vilene as are the forget-me-not flowers, with felt leaves, and stitched on beads and labels. Isn't is beautiful? 
Janet and I have been conducting a 'Frances Pickering correspondence  course' between us since I went to her workshop and Janet has been trying to work from her book.

The box also contained....
some vintage buttons and threads and....

vintage flower and vegetable labels.
I am sure you wish she was your sister too, but hands off, she's mine!

Now for a 'shower' after all this sunshine. I was sitting in the conservatory this afternoon when there was a great kerfuffle on the roof and our blackbird was to be seen diving at a magpie. Mrs Blackbird was seen emerging from the shrubbery followed by the magpie with one of her eggs in its beak. It's nature I know, but sad all the same. We seem to have more magpies than blackbirds. 

But a pretty shot to end with, I only wish I could post the scent of apple blossom,

This tree has been known to  have only three apples on it, we should do better this year
(it's a russet).
Wishing you all a great May Bank Holiday weekend.

PS. May calendar ready - posting soon

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Beautiful Bedfordshire

Bluebells and primroses, who could ask for anything more?

from my visit to the Luton Hoo estate this afternoon.

Monday, 26 April 2010

In the Pink

Here is my latest book, all ready to fill. I love making them, I guess I can just take my time filling the pages

This is the cover and the lining before sticking them together with bond-a-web. The lining (top) is the original transfer dye painting enhanced with colour pencils and given a couple of coats of acrylic wax. The cover (bottom and below) has been stitched on all week.
A button and cord were stitched on as a fastener, the lining bonded on and the pages stitched in.




That is three I have to work on now, and I have promised myself that I shall give myself time to work on some of my other projects.

Saturday, 24 April 2010


It has been very busy here so I am taking a break to do a quick catch-up whilst Mr T watches the IPL cricket which he recorded earlier. I had to give in and do some gardening today. Because of a very large hernia (awaiting surgery), Mr T is finding all bending down very difficult, and so the vegetables have come over to me, under strict supervision. We had to pay someone to prepare the beds - I am not up to digging, but they are now ready for the mange tout and sugar snap peas growing in the greenhouse. Then there will be further crops of beetroot, carrot and salad stuff.  I also weeded and mulched the raspberries and tayberries this afternoon. My end of the garden is looking a bit neglected, but bursting with flowers, we have robins and backbirds nesting and there is constant activity at the bird feeders.


Last week we went to see my in-laws. Jean had said she would look out her embroidery threads for me, but she hadn't found them. However she did bring down a drawer stuffed with sewing bits and pieces including more pieces of lace than I could imagine. I thought she was going to hand the lot over to me, but she wanted to keep most of it, just in case, and I don't blame her. But she cut me off half a metre or so of each piece. Some of it is absolutely gorgeous, what luck. Jean was a great sewer once, and made nearly all her own clothes. My in-laws are the worlds greatest hoarders and bargain seekers so there home is stuffed to the rafters. 

Jean's lace

Jean also had a great collection of braids  - enough to trim a 'flotilla' of lampshades - I did not say 'no' to a few feet of these. I  know you ladies who enjoy vintage lace and haberdashery will be intrigued.

Fringing and braids

Meanwhile I have been working on my handmade books. I thought I would show you the paper I have been experimenting with. I mentioned it before, but the results are wonderful. Using the Frances Pickering technique I have coloured this paper by soaking it in a Brusho water colour wash. You tear the paper and dampen it with plain water first. I used heavy duty lining paper here. I mixed three colours, two reds and a purple and generously slopped wash on both sides of each piece of paper stacking it in a higgledy-piggledy heap. I then sandwiched pieces of torn paper doily, lace, flowers and leaves in between the sheets, something my fellow course member. Paula Watkins had done previously. The pile of paper is then wrapped in a plastic bag and left for at least half an hour for the paint to soak in. I then dried it of with a hair-dryer and gave it a press with a hot iron.

The colours here are a bit brighter than the actual colour. Frances recommended Brusho colour as it is relatively cheap and the colours are very intense so you only need a little to make a strong wash. Also the pages do not stick together - having them stacked is what helps the patterning to develop. Unwrapping the paper and peeling the sheets apart is great as each page is different and a surprise.

Here are a couple of pages from my book of 'J'

The Joker card is a scan from a beautiful miniature double set of cards which belonged to my grandmother. I should think they date from the 1920s or 30s.

...and  here is Jezebel.

Hope you are having a great weekend too.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Hidden Gems on earth day

Today I went for a walk in a beautiful cowslip meadow which is a five minute from my home and I didn't realize it was there. I belong the the local U3A (University of the Third Age) natural history group and we had a guided walk round this site which I thought was just an area of waste ground. There are lots of small streams running through Luton which feed the River Lea which runs into the Thames. This site has lots of pools formed by springs and has a colony of rare crested newts as well as water voles. Kingfishers, herons and even little egrets have been seen at the site.
This is Trevor the local conservation office introducing us to the area which is surrounded by the A6, housing estates and an electricity sub-station. Those are cowslips we are standing in.
They are not quite fully out yet, Trevor reckoned they will be at their peak in a couple of weeks.
Here we are spotting the new leaves of the Greater Pignut which Trevor has shown us before on a different site. It is a rare plant which for some reasons enjoys growing around Luton, it is the chalk grassland it likes - it is a rather unprepossessing relative of the carrot.
One of the streams on the site. As the water is fresh from the chalk springs  it is lovely and clear.Later on there are  common and marsh orchids blooming in the meadow. I shall be back.
The pools are surrounded by several different species of willow - they will dry up later in the year.
These large marsh marigolds are probably a cultivar that has established  itself in the pool.
Luton has a rather poor reputation as a town, but it has a thriving and active conservation team working to preserve these little corners, I must get out more!

A handwritten blog

A day late with Dog Daisy Chains challenge, but here goes

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Hi John and Trish

Today's blog is dedicated to our dear friends John and Trish who hosted our New Year celebrations. They are stuck in Kuala Lumpur with not much prospect of a flight home. They have got WiFi connection so I hope they are able to keep in contact.
I have had a great day - so I ignored the dust so deep I could grow potatoes on the bookshelf, the kitchen floor which could feed a family of four (and a cat) and the filter of my dishwasher which could be used for a nourishing soup and went to a local car boot sale this morning inspired by lala's post. I am not really an early bird or a car boot person, but after dropping Mr T off I headed to the Olde Water Mill garden centre. There were only about 25 cars and as it was about 10.30 I didn't think I would have much luck. But look at this -

All this for about £8 - My best buy, the iron for £2, just what I need  for my craft work. The FW acrylic inks are labelled £2.25 each, but are now over £4 a bottle. (all for £3 including the some cheap brushes - just right for glue and gels and some beads. In the Water Mill I was also able to but embroidery threads and some fabric scraps from the quilting shop! What a happy bunny I am. By the way Lesley and tried the FW ink on the vilene - it soaked in rather a lot, but I guess if you mixed it with a thickener it could work.
I have been busy in my "J" book too.

Here is the page for 'Jam',
 and Lesley, I had already started 'Jamboree' when I read your comment this morning - honest,

although I think Jingoism may be a bit more of a challenge!
Watch this space for 'jokers' and 'Jezebel'.

Monday, 19 April 2010

The next step

I have been begrudgingly doing my chores; cooking, shopping and cutting the moss and weeds - sorry lawn over the last few days when really I wanted to MAKE BOOKS. In fact I have managed to start four! Here are the covers of two of them.
The little heart book has a three fold cover and I have started hand stitching on the dyed pelmet vilene. I only bought a few colours of the transfer dyes so I have worked on it with colour pencils before giving it a coat of acrylic wax to fix the colour. I hope to transform it with embroidery, I shall take my time. I shall fill it with rather girly heart motifs. The larger one I made in the same way but I have started to machine embroider this one and stitch on ribbon and lace. I have an idea of calling this my Book of Days and am toying with a few ideas. I promise to keep you informed. I have made another cover in the shape of a leaf, but I have put that one aside for later. 
This is the little book I have got furthest with.

I have finished the cover with embroidery and beads. The edge of the cover is pierced and shaped with a soldering iron which melts the vilene.

The theme of this book is the letter J (not too difficult to guess) and I have been making a list of things beginning  with J to go in it. Jokers, jellies, jumpers, jingles-the trick will be to make each page decorative.

Here is the first page - I am the big one!
The pages were lining paper soaked in Brusho water colour, I wrote the letter J on the right hand page with bleach. I shall probably add some stitches too. Got to go now, I am using up valuable stitching time. I'll try to drop in on your posts later.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Happy Birthday Janet!

It is my sister's birthday today so I made her an initial for her birthday. I am sure you can workout her favourite pastimes. I was especially pleased with the 'sea' moulded with Golden gloss gel and thanks to Lesley for the idea of knitting with cocktails sticks. I am sorry I can't just pop over to the Isle of Wight to see you, but happy birthday little sis.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

A wonderful two days

What a great two days I have just had at Frances Pickering's 'Books to Cherish' course at Art Van Go (That's the links over and done). I am totally pooped, even though I have been sitting down most of the day! So this post is just a quick over view, with some very poor photos I'm afraid. Several people on the course said they were going to visit my blog this evening so I want to give they them something to look at. First I must say that  being able to handle Frances' books was a terrific opportunity. They were all delicious and over the two days my favourite changed, you need to look at her web page to see them. I was totally hooked and bought all the necessary materials. I will be going through the process in the next few days to cement it in my brain, so I will share it with you. Where to start?

Well here is Frances demonstrating how tactile our books should feel - perhaps not a very flattering photo, but showing her passion for her art.

This is the cover of my book - painted onto cheap copy paper with transfer dyes and ironed onto pelmet vilene  then waxed with acrylic wax to stabilize the colours. It is now ready for some stitched embellishments.

Here Frances  is showing us how to  shape the edge of the vilene with a soldering iron. You can also use it to make holes in the cover.
Next we tore some heavy duty lining paper into pagers and left them to 'marinade' in Brusho water colour wrapped up in polythene.
After they had been wrapped up for an hour or so, we dried them off with a hair dryer and gave them a quick iron. 
You are then ready to stitch your book together and start filling it.

This is the finished outside with a button and cord fastening.

and here a couple of pages - not finished by any means - it is a long term project.
Here are some of the other member of the group's work-

Monday, 12 April 2010

What I did next

I've been making these little scented shabby fabric hearts. 
Here is how: I cut out a heart shape from a piece of fairly strong fabric and then chose scraps of fabric, ribbon and lace that toned in. I then zig-zagged the trimmings onto the heart with a contrasting thread, adding a few random lines of stitching.

I then cut another heart the same size in a toning/or contrasting piece of felt for the back. I have some cheap viscose (or whatever) felt which I was wondering what I would use for.

I then stitched round the edge leaving a gap near the pointed end for stuffing. I stuffed them as firmly as I could and then added some pot-pourri oil on a piece of cotton wool.

As they are not turned inside-out it is easy to stitch up the gap. I then finished them off with a ribbon and a button or bow. I came home from my sisters with a big bag of fabric scraps and pieces of ribbon although that was before I got my machine and didn't know what I was going to do with them. I am beginning to build up my own bits collection now. She also sent me a tin of buttons and another bag of bits this week (what a great sister to have!)

I got a bit carried away photographing them in the afternoon sun. 
I must say I am rather pleased with them.

On Wednesday and Thursday I am going on a course at The Art Van Go Studio in Knebworth called "Books to Cherish with Frances Pickering. Here is one of her books, so you can guess I am really looking forward to it. I hope I shall something interesting to share at the end of the week. Meanwhile I hope you all have an enjoyable and creative week too.

Book by Frances Pickering