Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter

I couldn't let this date go by:  three, one, three, one, three.  I just love patterns!
And it is Easter Sunday.  Happy Easter to you all.

I am being distracted by a minute caterpillar making its way down my screen.  I have no idea where it could have come from or where it thinks it might be going.
As you can see, it is not very big.

It seems to be my time for insects.  I was helping to clean out a shed that has been infected with termites.  The floor was very unsafe and we had to tread carefully.
This used to be solid timber flooring.

If you look very closely, you will see the dreaded 'white ants'.

Then I saw what appeared to be two huntsman spiders peering over the shelf I had been clearing.  It was above shoulder height and I had been reaching around on the shelf without looking all that carefully. As I was unable to step back quickly, I tentatively made my way our of the shed, got my camera, and took the photos from a distance.

It turns out that one of the scary sights was a spider skin and the other was a dead spider.  But it had been startling at first.

We took some of the infected wood to a pile that will be burnt - as soon as we are allowed to have outdoor fires.  Let's hope the fire restrictions are removed soon.

Then some yellow breasted robins  came to have a feast on the termites.

Well, the caterpillar has made it all the way down the screen.  I suppose I had better take it outside and hope I can find an appropriate plant for it to live on.  Maybe it came from the hollyhock flowers that I am still collecting - apparently it isn't new plants, it is offshoots of the original.  It is still producing quite a lot of flowers, has been for months now.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Learning by experience

It has been a week since I last posted, I am not keeping up to my self-imposed goal.
I have been reasonably good with my doodle a day goal though - I have missed a couple of days but am remembering most days. However, I have let the lino-cut-a-day lapse, I was ending up with a whole lot of pieces that I have not used and have no plans to use.
But ...

I have enrolled to do another year of Machine Embroidery as an Art Form, through SWTAFE.  Once again, it is by correspondence, as was first year.
We are sent notes for each assignment, with instructions for experimentation in different areas of machine embroidery.
The first assignment gelled very nicely with things I had been playing around with recently.
We were asked to do some lino cuts, make our own stamps and stencils and try to make a repeat design. As we are not doing lengths of fabric, it doesn't have to be a very good repeat, just a suggestion of one. So I thought I would have a reasonable handle on this assignment. We can also do a single stand-alone design.
We were asked to choose a particular design or art movement and I chose Art Nouveau. I have had an interest in Charles Rennie Mackintosh's designs for a few years now (as I mentioned recently), so I thought I would focus on his work.

I have drawn up a couple of designs based on elements of his work. I have made some stamps and stencils. I have printed them.

Then came the sewing.  I looked at the notes and tried a few of the options. A couple of techniques seemed to suit my designs quite well. So off I went, trying them out.
We have been asked to hand in six samples of at least 30cm x 30cm. Remembering to leave some space for joining fabric together (otherwise known as seams), I allowed what I thought was a reasonable amount around my 30cm. I cut the fabric 42cm square (it was easy to measure accurately on my cutting mat at that size, no other reason for exactly that measurement).

Then I did my stamping. I was getting those pesky lines around the design that come with lino cutting. So I tried masking the lino. That worked ok but I think I won't bother when I do my next sample as the extra lines and texture add interest.

I did my little bit of stencilling - I used a sponge with a handle. I cannot find them anywhere in the shops and have no idea where I got this one. If you know where to get them in Melbourne, please let me know!

Then I did the sewing, using twin needles and a foot for the machine that I have never used before - which is pretty much all of them. It did the job I had envisaged, of giving a clear flowing line, beautifully. But it also pulled the fabric in - much further than I had anticipated. The design was only 26cm wide. I was very glad I had been generous with the extra fabric. It just manages to be 30cm x 30cm - and that is after I added another row of stamps to make it wide enough.

Here is sample one - not a complete work of art but I have had fun playing around with getting various techniques to work for me.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Plastic Fantastic exhibition

Plastic - Fantastic? is the theme of the 2013 'Discarded' Recycled art exhibition being held at the Box Hill Community Arts Centre at the moment. It is part of the city of Whitehorse's Sustainable Living celebrations.
A friend of mine has work in it.  It is a knitted bag, made of old plastic bags.  By Jill Preston.

 These two were made using old microfiche, bubble wrap and contact used for covering shelves.  By Roma McLaughlin 

 This one was made by students at St John's Primary School.
I don't remember who made this one but I liked it.

The works all had a message about sustainability but also showed some creative ways to reuse what might otherwise be called 'rubbish'.

If you go to see it, don't forget to call in at The Alcove and spend some money!

Monday, March 18, 2013


I called in at the Handweavers and Spinners guild, in Carlton, last week and had a chance to have a look at the latest show in the gallery.  There was quite a lot of lovely wool, spun by guild members, as well as articles made by them.
One was by a lady I have met through the guild, and through Ivanhoe Makers Market, Teresa Bennett.  She had done a lovely little nest shape, made of paper and wire.

 I met Teresa in the street on Friday, we just happened to be in the same shopping strip, at the same time.  It is not a shopping strip I go to very often.  I mentioned I had seen her work and she told me about the exhibition in the CAE - I would have seen it as I go there every week and always look to see what they have on display but I may not have noticed her name, I am very bad at taking notice of who has done the work. Teresa gave me permission to take photos and here they are:

The display is of works by recently graduated Arts students from CAE.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Autumn weather

We've all been complaining about the unusually hot weather lately. Today we were 'not complaining' about being rather cool.  The temperature where we were only got to 17C (62F) - and it was windy!  This is a bit of a change from the 35C (95F) we had a few days ago.  Typical Melbourne weather.  It is supposed to warm up again in a few days but not to the same heat we have been enduring.

We took Penny to the beach at St Kilda, for a short run.  We had totally forgotten that the Grand Prix was on.  It was a little tricky to get to the beach we wanted but we did manage it.  Turns out the race was just starting as we left the beach - it is a very noisy race! It rained in the morning (celebrations!!!) but was fine for the race.

I recently saw a post on Vera's blog about her Naked Lady flowers.  I thought I had missed my chance to post about them because the heat did dreadful things to them.  But, lo and behold, there were some in the garden today.
I had to post about them, just to see if I get lots of hits because of what we call them.  I have no idea of their proper name, I have always known them as Naked Ladies.

The hollyhocks have seeded and new plants are coming up - and they are flowering too!  I keep getting more flowers in the freezer.  I will have to do some more dyeing soon.  I just need to think about what I am going to do with the fabric.  But I can't let those wonderful flowers just go to waste - not that they would be wasted, we do have a good compost heap.

We were also lucky to see a Dingy Swallowtail Butterfly emerge from its chrysalis yesterday.  It took a while for its wings to dry out and we were able to get a few good shots.
If you look closely, you can see the drop of liquid hanging.  This is the last of the liquid it squirts out just before it is ready to fly away.
It doesn't look all that dingy to me.  Not sure why it has that name.

I remember having the caterpillars in my classroom for several years.  We got the eggs from the Melbourne Zoo Butterfly House, they stayed on the lemon tree I had in a pot in the classroom, and then they made their chrysalises.  As they take quite a while to emerge and let their wings dry, we got to see part of the process once the school day started.  One year we had waited patiently through the weeks of the process and took the tree outside so the butterfly could fly away at the right time. We all sat quietly, watching it emerge, flutter its wings dry and get ready to fly.  Just as it eventually fluttered away, down swooped a magpie for a lovely butterfly snack!  A life lesson learnt that day.  There was just a shocked silence, then we went back inside.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Daily art

As I posted earlier, I am trying to do a doodle a day.  And a lino cut a day.  The latter has proven more problematic as I only had so much lino (and soft cut) available.  One of these days I am going to have to go out and buy some more.  I have been trying to limit myself to what I already had but now I am running out, despite a friend giving me what she had left over from her textile course.  She says she is not going to do more lino cutting, it wasn't her thing.
As the doodling is small, I have been able to keep to my resolution of one a day (well, I did miss two days but allowed myself do to extra on the third day). It is still unusually hot here in Melbourne and so the doodling has been more doable than some of the other things I could be doing. However, the sweaty hand can be a problem, it smears the ink if I am not careful. Very annoying.

I have been reading about Art Nouveau (randomly chosen link here, one of many) and Charles Rennie Mackintosh and I think I can see some of that creeping into my designs.

I have tried out some of my lino cuts after I realised I was happily cutting away but not printing them.  I have only done them in a book so far, not on fabric.  Will get around to that one day, if I can think of how to use these designs.  At least my cutting is improving, not to the point where I can put in the same detail as in the doodling but I think that is just the medium and I will never achieve that.
 I didn't do any of the cutting with repeat patterns in mind but it seemed such a waste to get the fabric paint out and just do one print, so I did some multiple prints for a few of them.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Coping with the heat

Well. summer should be winding down but it isn't.  It is actually worse than our usual summer where we get hot days (with some cool nights) for about 4 days and then a storm rolls in and the temperature drops 10-15 degrees.  Then it starts up again.
Not this time - we are having hot days (but not ridiculously hot - only about in the low to mid 30s (C), mid 90s (F)) but the nights are staying warm, and the days are gradually warming up more and more.  It is forecast to be 37C in a couple of days and the nights are progressively warmer - they do cool down a bit, of course. It is all very enervating though.

As I have already said, I am doing an online workshop for the Traveller's Blanket.  I have decided to use pieces of fabric that I have left over from my years of playing around with textiles.  Some pieces go back to the 80s, when I did a bit of silk painting.  Some are from quilts I have made, screen printing, needle felting with the embellisher, silk dyeing, silk paper, fabric painting, sewing classes, etc.  I was going to put in some knitting but it was too bulky.  Most of the fabric selection is sorted, I have left some empty spots either for new stuff I do in the meantime (it is going to take a while to finish) or just to leave empty, to show that my journey is not finished.

I am now up to the hand embroidery. I have started because I  visited a friend who has very efficient air conditioning but it has just been too hot at home lately to have a blanket on my lap and be doing hand embroidery.  So I will try again in a week or so, or when I visit my friend.

I have decided to try sewing patterns that I have not used before, or it was so long ago that I have forgotten them. And I don't seem to be able to be tidy with it, my embroidery wants to wander.  But it is a journey, so it doesn't matter. I did do hand embroidery a bit in the 60s and 70s, maybe even the early 80s but that is (gasp) about 30 years ago.  So I have forgotten how to do a lot of the stitches.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Mountain to Sea inspiration

The online group, tapestryweaversoz, has an annual project to make a tapestry that is no more than 20 x 20 cm.  Each year has a different theme.  This year it is Mountains to Sea.  I have seen that a couple of people whose blogs I visit have posted about their work (Vera and Pat), so I will too.
I am looking forward to seeing all the works in the flesh, so to speak.  It will be a travelling exhibition, in a suitcase, and we are hoping to host it here in Melbourne in June or July. Seeing pictures of people's work is good but nothing compares to seeing them in reality.
I think I mentioned already that I was having problems with my tapestry having bulges.  I have sewn up the slits, steamed it a little, and the bulges are less obvious.  They are still there but I have decided that I can't make it any better and that is the best I can do.

Isn't it amazing how the time of day affects the colours?

These themes give me the impetus to weave, and to try various techniques, so I am not going to beat myself up about the work not being perfect - I need this encouragement to weave and will participate as long as I can.  The group is a very generous one, people will always answer questions and no question is too simple. I need to be weaving, so I can try out different ideas and for the pure enjoyment of the process.
As usual, I haven't just done the topic, I had to put a twist on it.  So mine is Sea to Mountain - it is based on ammonite (or ammolite) that is a sea fossil - ammolite is found in the Rocky Mountains.   I have been influenced by the fossil turning into rock and by the fact that the sea-bed is now in a mountain.
I found my inspirational image on a royalty free stock photo site and have bought the licence to use it. It is a relief to think that I am legal about this - if I am understanding copyright properly, such a tricky process.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Glowing eyes.

This is a bit of a random post.  It is hot and I am not up to much, not my favourite weather. It is forecast to be hot for at least another week.  I was hoping summer was over!

Michelle had a post recently on her Threefold Designs blog (aka Crafts for Misfits), that had a picture of one of her cats.  It's eyes were glowing.  I couldn't resist putting up a picture of our dog, also with glowing eyes.
I used to have a much better picture of Penny with glowing eyes and collar but that was in the photos that I deleted from my computer.  Still have moments of regret over that.  Still, I haven't lost my home to fires or storms, so I can't really complain.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

What a little bit of water can do

We have had a very dry January (one site says we had 8mm of rain in Melbourne).
We decided to resume having a bucket in the sink while rinsing vegetables and salads, and when rinsing plates, so we could put that water on plants that have been suffering.  One plant has made a resurgence - a hibiscus that is madly flowering.  We are wondering if it is going through its death throes and producing lots of flowers.  But I am pretty sure it flowered lots last year too, and for a long time. It was struggling a lot with the heat and dryness, so it has been my mission to put the kitchen waste water onto it.

There has been a young wattlebird living in it lately, making almost constant noise.

Then we had a bit of rain in February (71mm in our area according to Melbourne Water.) However, we still have water restrictions in place.  The recent rain has rejuvenated some plants though, they are just taking over the place. The pace at which this malabar spinach has climbed on our hose has just been amazing.
Here's hoping March will not be so hot (although it is forecast to be rather warm in the next few days) and that there will be rain in the near future.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Simple Onion Skin Dyeing

Today's date is 1/3/13, I just have to do a post.
So ...
In a recent post, I mentioned using onion skins to dye my silk scarf.  Then I realised that I hadn't posted about it, so here it is.
It was very easy actually.  I used India Flint's Eco Colour again (getting value for having bought the book!).
I laid out the scarf, folded it in half lengthways, and the put pieces of onion skin, laid out artistically of course, along the scarf.  Then I sprayed it with vinegar, rolled it up and put it in a ziplock bag.  I left it out in the glasshouse (during the December summer weather) for 10 days.  I rinsed it a couple of times, with a small amount of vinegar in the final rinse.

I had used a small amount of red onion and red onion skin and that showed up too.