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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Just messsin'






I have a twighlight inservice for the teachers at flower school tomorrow night so I've been in my workroom today messing about with a simple printing block, acrylics and some calico bags seeing how many effects I could get. Plenty of sensible things I could have been doing. Heyho. Feeling a bit disconnected and unfocused today. Could really do with someone to boss me about. Why can you never find a nebby bitch when you need one?

Distressing news?

If you have been following my collaboration with my friend Maggie, please check out her blog for the next installment and vote for whether or not you think we should subject out efforts so far to the rigors of a machine wash.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Follow the yellow brick road



Had a good reverse applique session yesterday and the yellow brick road is now in place although I decided not to make it yellow. The wallhanging is about the school's 10th anniversary and the theme is growth and forward movement. Pleased with it so far. Very tempting to do all kinds of fancy smanchy smartie pants things but this is about the children's work, not mine.

Plenty of work involved for me however. Next task is to stretch and mount all my little flowers ready for their embroidery.

In my garage a have a huge frame on legs onto which the background fabric will be mounted. It has lived in the garage for a while and developed a fine bloom of mould. It would be disastrous if this transferred itself to the fabric. Will give this frame a good scrub down before I begin and maybe swath it in masking tape once dry just to be doubly sure.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Fancy brushwork



It was fabric painting day at flower school which went off pretty uneventfully. As I sat in class waiting for teach and watching the children file in, the bad boy of the group proudly strode up and down in front of me announcing he hated art and wasn't going to do anything for me today. I decided just to blank him.

The lesson began with bug making. We used our hairy pipe cleaners for the body, adding telephone wire antennae and gluing on googly eyes. 'This is taking FAR too long ' announced one little entomologist. Obviously he was on a tight schedule.

Off to the dinner hall for fabric painting. The bad boy was very excited about this and first in the queue. As we walked along the corridor I asked him if he was the same boy who hated art and wasn't going to do anything for me? He agreed he was and had the good grace to look sheepish. Have you you changed your mind I asked? Yes. Sure? Yes. I left it at that.

With the fabric successful painted I waived goodbye as the children filed out. Goodbye flowers, goodbye flowers, I called. Hey, said the lad with no time to spare. Who you calling a flower? Certainly not you I replied.

Sarcasm and irony are really lost on children of this age. When I presented them with buckets of paint, they asked if it was paint. Well it ain't no chicken soup was my smart mouth reply which prompted the painters to discuss and contrast at some lengthy the merits of painting with various flavours of soup. Think I'll stick to yes/no answers in future.

This is the grass and the earth which I'm going to sew one on top of the other and cut back to reveal the path meandering through the greenery. Said I would take my sewing machine to school to give the kids an idea of how it had been done. That should prompt a few insightful remarks and challenges I would image. Can't wait.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Threading the needle

It was day two in the flower school yesterday where I learned that teaching six year olds really is like dealing with creatures from another planet who have - literally - never had this experience before. I thought I had it sussed. I had 30 squares of pelmet vilene pre cut with 30 little easy thread needles tucked into the corners. I took the children in groups of eight and asked them to take the needle out of the fabric.

What's fabric?

That square you're holding. They smell it. It stinks! (It does. Have you ever noticed that about pelmet vilene?)

So take your needle out. Their little fingers don't quite have enough strength and when I turn my back for a second they are trying to take the needles out with their teeth. I take the needles out for them.

Look closely at your needle. You'll see one end is jaggy and what's at the other end?

Holes.

Yes holes, and two things that look like bunny rabbits ears. (These are easy thread needles remember.)
Stick the jaggy end of your needle into a piece of this white stuff (polystyrene).

That's polystyrene, some smartie informs me. I knew that!

Now hold the end of the thread in your hand and unroll it up to your armpit. I'm trying to get them to cut a piece of thread as long as their arm. Eight different permutations of this happen, mostly wrong. Several small pieces of thread are cut. Okay, open out your two arms and cut a piece of thread that long. Better. Hold a small section of the thread tightly in two hands and pull it down between the bunny rabbits ears of your needle until your hear a click. Some managed, where conventional needle threading would have been beyond them all. A small triumph.

Now everyone look at me, look at me, LOOK AT ME! Feel I should be saying this in an Antipodean accent. Very reminiscent of Kath & Kim. Lick your pointing finger and rub it up your thumb. This is how we are going to tie a knot. Now find the two ends of your thread and wrap them round your pointing finger, rub it up your thumb and a knot appears. Yeah, right. I do eight personal one to one demonstrations of knot tying.

Now we practice sticking our needle in one side of the fabric and out the other. I would say two of the thirty children could do it well. Their grannies had taught them. Three cheers for grannies everywhere. Lots of the children sewed over the edge of the fabric, of course. Easy thread needles are great from the unclick and unpick point of view.

It's like going through a door I tell them. In one side and out the other. More go over the edge. Okay, so now you're teacher. Tell me, is this right or wrong? (I go over the edge) Wrong! Is this right or wrong? ( I go back and forth.) Right! Ah well, at least they have the theory. It's just the practice that's proving a little difficult.

Okay, so whose ready to make a flower? Round my neck I have the remnants of an old Country Casuals blouse that I've been cutting up for fabric collage. I begin to chop tiny bits off this and ask them to catch it with there needles before they go back through the fabric, thus making flower heads appear. This works well and some are now becoming quite impressed with their needlework skills.

But why are you cutting up your scarf, they ask?

I take the blouse off my neck only to have some child put it on and swan about claiming to be me. I know where I'd like to stick my needle.

Last week I told them that success comes in cans. In other words, have a positive mental attitude and always say 'I can do this' rather than their ubiquitous 'I can't.' One little boy was very defeatist and even after proving to himself that he could sew he refused to say the words. Please, I ask , just say for me once that you CAN sew and I'll go home happy. No way. It's a fearsome thought that a child aged six should be depressed but that's the way he looked.

I'm back on Thursday when they'll be painting their background fabric with sponges. There's no way they can do that wrong.....says me!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Living the dream


This is an ongoing collaboration with my internet bud, Maggie. Today I took Maggie's feet and my painted silk chiffon into the shop along with my sewing machine to see what happened next.

Faces happened funnily enough, free and scribbly. This piece is entitled Dream Walking and my dreams are always full of friends and enemies, alive and dead. This is the back of the piece. It's the only place the faces are really still visible.

I cut away some of the chiffon to highlight the faces and the more I worked the more frantic and frenetic it became. I wanted to calm it down with the addition of a landscape feel which I tried to do with stitch . It didn't really work.

Instead I put more of the painted chiffon on top, sewed some horizontal lines and did a bit more cutting back. I like parts of it but not sure that it works as a whole. It's still pretty busy with nowhere for the eye to rest. I'd like to chop it up now and isolate areas but feel I've had my shot for now and need to sent it back to Maggie.

In sewing as in life I tend to steamroad roller over what was there before and not much of Maggie's feet remain. For that reason I'm going to leave the duplicate set of feet untouched. I still like the idea of combining the two pieces in some kind of chop and stitch fashion. As it is, it would make quite a jolly little clutch or perhaps Maggie will choose to stick with the spirit of our original discussions regarding a figure. It would make nice little stripy legs. But that's not my decision to make...



Sunday, April 23, 2006

Life on the ocean wave: The prequel




When it's a lovely sunny day we like to take our folding bikes to a neighbouring island and cycle about a bit. (That's what's in the bag). I'm very impressed with these bikes. Light enough to carry slung over your shoulder and take on a bus but simple enough for a technophobe like me to assemble.

Talking about technophobes, Blogger is being very temperamental tonight and would only allow me to upload my pics in three goes. So read on, if you're not one of my 2 to 4 second visitors!

Life on the ocean wave: part one




Life on the ocean wave: part two











Saturday, April 22, 2006

Following in Maggie's footsteps






The feet and I made it to the workroom this evening rather than enjoying the pleasures of Dr Who. I still have to hide behind the sofa but hiding in the workroom seemed like a more sensible bet.

Looking at the feet made me think about the situation between Maggie and myself. We are virtual strangers integrally linked by this project. I wanted the feet to be together but separate so I left a space between and enough silk to border them on all four sides. This was going to give me the opportunity to use the clip-together frame which was a must have but is seldom used. Spot the paper mache warriors in the background still awaiting their missing ears and noses.

I like Maggie's title of Dream Walking. I dream memorably and vividly every night but have little or no control over them. I like to work that way too, just letting things happen.

I was guided by Maggie's colour palette of red and yellow, adding blue to made brown but allowing the colours to mix themselves on the fabric.

I love the smell of silk paint in my workroom. Reminds me of the days when I used to get off my bum every now and then and actually do something personally creative. This is a good jumpstart. Who knows where it will lead us.

Best feet forward


Maggie's feet strolled into my shop this afternoon. How exciting! Maggie is an internet bud and together we are having a little collaborative experiment. Check out Maggie's blog for the story so far.

Maggie sent me both sets of feet, the original idea being that we keep (and add to) a set each. As I have carte blanche to alter them as I choose (thanks Maggie!) I decided I rather like them as a pair.....or a pair of pairs, if you see what I mean.

More later...

Thistle do



I've been having a practice adding some petals to the children's faces. Being the national flower of Scotland, the thistle is a very popular choice. They had good success fringing and folding pieces of paper to represent frilly thistle down and I reckoned the same thing would work in fabric, which it does. There are however two things I had reckoned without.

I assumed that the children knew what a thistle actually looked like. Never a good idea to assume anything. All the other flowers we tried had petals going right round. Ergo, these frilly thistle things went right round. Right? Wrong. Had to explain it was frilly thistle hair only teamed with an attractive green Santa Claus beard at the other end.

Secondly, I assumed that six year olds would appreciate my acerbic, sarcastic wit. 'Wha dare meddle wi' me! I shouted at them. 30 pairs of frightened eyes looked back at me. This is the national motto of Scotland as we are all jaggy little thistles up here and you mess with us at your peril. Explained this to the started troops who still looked a bit dubious. Will have to remember to tone down the dramatic asides.

One problem is rather been exercising me. How to cut out and reattach to the main frame the children's faces once stitched. It struck me that some of the original background fabric must remain visible. Easier to disguise if it was green that if it was white so I printed out the little darlings on a green background. Crumbs, did that yomp through the ink! I'm printing onto Miracle Fabric Sheets and 14 little miracles used a whole cartridge of yellow ink. It does solve the green Santa Claus beard problem rather nicely. Those being thistles can be cut out plus beard thus incurring minimum meddling. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Paper Roses

Lovely day at flower school today. Only school I've ever been in where they thanked God for sending me (in prayers after lesson). Usually it's thank God she's away! Children grasped the paper flower concept well and turned themselves into roses and thistles, chrysanthemum and pansies. One little boy informed me that he was going to design his own flower - and why not!


I had cropped the children's photographs very tightly to make them look like the centre of flowers and they found it difficult to recognise themselves without hair. That's not me declared one little shoot. I'm not bald!

They soon had the hang of it although they begged reassurance that this was only a practice. I thought they did pretty well.

A new girl to this school was crying, so much fuss was made over her and her flower was held up by the teach for everyone to see how lovely it was. She was smiling by the end of the lesson. Good school.

Back on Tuesday for introduction to needlework - with the help of God.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Flower Power

Ever wished you were a flower? It's no better, believe me. In the words of the Average White Band...there's always someone waiting looking over your shoulder, just when you think you've got it made and everything is lemonade. Good positive message for the kiddiewinkies, eh? Perhaps I'll leave them to learn that one for themselves in later life.

I've decided these will be my four 3D paper flower examples. Let's hope no one wants to a hyacinth. The insects, I'm still working on. Not nearly menacing enough. Scroll down and you'll see the little seed pods waiting for their petals. Thursday is unfurling day. Watch this space.




Wednesday, April 12, 2006

To put you in the picture




I start at flower school once Easter is over and have been preparing today. Suggested the school's photographer take pics of the kids with different expressions and looking in different directions. This has worked a treat with lots of dialogue going on between the flowers. It suggested a great story telling project based on what one flower is saying to another or at the very least, a caption contest.

I freshened up my rusty computer design skills and cut out the flower heads with Corel Draw freehand tool. Quite a job where there are thirty of them! Need to mask them off a bit more with the circle tool to get rid of a few sharp corners here and there.

Next job is to print them onto paper and let the kids have a go at arranging their paper petals. Then we print onto fabric and stitch for real. I commissioned a differently abled carpentry workshop to make me 31 frames designed to fit the fabric sheets. For this they charged me only £20! Good job. Part of the project was for two of the woodworkers to take a train ride and deliver the frames to me. They managed fine and I couldn't help a wry smile at what was written on the bottom of the box.

'This is the bottom of the box. If you're reading this, the box is upside down or you need a hobby'. Uhuh....

I was indulging my other hobby this afternoon and having a bash a making Thai fish cakes. Haven't eaten them yet. Will let you know!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Lost at sea

I became spectacularly lost on the way to my see through sea scapes workshop today. I have a satellite navigation system in the van but the trouble is I don't believe it. A bit like the crochet pattern that obviously had a mistake in it when it was written. It couldn't possibly be anything I had done wrong.

Turn left says the sat nav. No, I argue, you're lying- and turn the other way. After a few miles of this I did not have a clue where I was and had to obey instructions which were of course perfectly correct and got me there in no time. Anyone else suffer from this debilitating, know- it- all mentality?

The workshop went well when I finally arrived. We had so much fabric to audition the floor was the only available space. Had to take a shot of all the lovely tins people brought especially to prop up there frames. It included diet food for dogs. I didn't realise there was such a product!

Sadly one of my machine was sick and will have to go to hospital. Its zigzag knob zigs no longer and is looking decidedly zaggy. Hoping my dearly beloved can fix it. I know this is naughty and that you are not supposed to poke about in your machine's innards without having spent seven years at med school but we like to live life on the edge.

Enjoy the rest of the pcitures.