18 October 2017

Ghosts of cats

Here's cat I often see sitting in the window, on top of the convenient shutters, catching a bit of sun, as cats are wont to do - 
This next is NOT an actual cat, lying on the pavement, though the enigmatic object startled me into wondering just what it might be (a bit of cloth, fallen on hard times...). It was evening, I was taking the long way home to make up my 10,000 step quota; in any case,  a photo was needed -
And the next day, this ghostly creature (definitely not a cat), climbing among the shrubbery at Colindale tube station -
They fit in well with the "monsters" woodcuts I'm currently doing. It's probably not a coincidence that I'm seeing strange creatures in unlikely places; what's that saying about "fortune favours the prepared mind" ?

17 October 2017

Drawing Tuesday - Wallace Collection

On the way to the venue I resolved to look for "strong pattern". Maybe this?
But no, I started with the patterning on these bits of armour -
 The aim was to collect patterns from here&there, and to make a colourful page. I could have glued on the tissue paper thoughtfullly at home but did it hurriedly on site -
 and then spent an hour and a half adding bits of this&that, starting with the armour patterns in white on dark -
 Others had more sensible agendas ...
Janet B returned to "her" horse

Judith's dogs from paintings

Sue's horse armour (protection for eyes, ears, neck)
Janet K's dragon drawer-handle, approached in two ways
 Extracurricular activities
The Matisse in the Studio exhibition inspired Janet K ...

... and she also tried some "dendritic" monoprinting
 And finally....
How to keep your earphones from getting their knickers in a knot

16 October 2017


It was so lovely yesterday to have the Whole Day to sew - and to finish the project - that I was ready to do it all over again. Mid-morning found me sat at the kitchen table [studio still in unspeakable turmoil] with a new podcast to listen to - Art for your Ear, low-key, ie relaxed, interviews with artists. One episode followed another as the bits of wood moved from block to table to floor, falling much like xmas tree needles do...

The bit of wood I'm using is an offcut from some plywood that Tom used on a job, and my subject is, well, "squiggles". I think of them as monsters -
This could be in three colours, or maybe more, or maybe just two. Part is on the back of my block, than that's completely cut, and the squiggles on the front of the block are "in progress" - my elbows started to complain -
One side ready to print - only the dots get inked
(hope there's enough space around them) - the uncut
areas support the paper

The other side just started - it's about halfway now

Once the stressed elbows have a rest, I'll get back to the multicoloured monsters. At centre, that took two class sessions to cut, and I'll print it on Wedsnesday, and then think about adding another couple of layers to print in different colours, just to see what happens...
While finding my tools I also found the block cut in the summer for texture, and did a couple of quick rubbings to get some "grids". When you see a lattice in a japanese print, it's usually been done in two separate blocks, one for each set of parallel lines. That's not cheating - it's very sensible!

 As I write, the sky is incredible, very yellow due to sand from the Sahara and further dust from Iberian forest fires, brought this way by ex-hurricane Ophelia. The particles cause scattering of blue light, apparently, causing reddish light - hence the "red sun" seen earlier [missed it!] ... but yellow light? and what about the way that everything goes so green before some thunderstorms? Obviously a topic that needs investigating... where are the tame physicists when you actually need them?

I tried to get photos of the yellow light, which is amazing behind the gloriously red ash tree across the road, but the camera kindly adjusted the lighting conditions to what it thought should be "normal" -

But hey, that's the downside of digital photos.

15 October 2017

Dressmaking starts with pattern making

It's been a mere two years since I sewed a garment - the still-unfinished ladybird dress - and for that I used a commercial pattern. This time I have garments that "just" need replicating. It's been a lot longer than two years since I copied a garment, and wow it's a steep learning curve, all over again!

So I jumped right in with both feet, heart in mouth, with an asymmetrical dress that needed a few little tweaks. ("Fear of making mistakes is the deathknell of creativity" (source)).

Whew, four hours later there is a pattern! If you want to try this at home, here's what I learned.

1. Use the largest surface you have.
 2. Check the pattern against the garment, especially after making changes - how likely are they to logically work the way you envisage?
Here, I've made the front smaller in the middle, and changed the neckline to be lower at centre front - this should(?) make it possible to use a facing rather than a stretchy knit band and still be able to get it over the head without needing zip or slit&button to enlarge the neck opening.

3. Make sure you've made all the pieces. Er, where did that left back get to ... oh ....
 Well, here it is now, adjusted a bit to make it smaller. Whether that will be better in a slightly thicker fabric ... we'll see ...

4. If you adjust the pattern and don't plan to make a trial in an unwanted fabric (to check pattern and fit), at least pin the pattern together to check the seam lengths match, and keep your eyes open for any other potential problems - eg, have you marked grainline? It's easy to forget things that seem obvious at the time (believe me....)
The back seems to fit together fine, even the long bit that
makes the tricky corner that has the front panel going round
to the back (ie, disrupting the side seam)

And the front, with compensation in the skirt for the decreases at the top,
also fits - in the paper version anyway...

The pocket needs moving closer to the side seam
 And finally, we're ready for the fun part - cutting and sewing.
I'm imagining this will take less time than making the pattern, once I decide whether to use the straight-stitch machine that's set up on the sewing table (which would need practice in stretching seams to just the right amount during stitching), or to dig out the fancy machine. This really would need digging - and moving other objects in the studio would probably lead to much distraction and/or disorder. 

Later that evening ...

It took about four hours to do the cutting and sewing - and it was lovely to have the entire day to devote to this project. 

Using a facing for the neck worked out well. First step was to overlap the centres on the bodice, then the facing was added to front and to back, and then the shoulders were sewn -
Sleeves were set in, and  one sleeve/bodice seam sewn (the "short side"). Then the skirt parts were overlapped and seamed, and the skirt fitted onto the bodice, with bodice overlapping skirt to make a nice visible diagonal line. Here you can see the pins and the "long side seam", which will be sewn once the skirt is on -
 After that it's a matter of the hem (which needed some careful adjustment and levelling) and the sleeve hems - both sewn with two parallel lines of straight stitch. In fact straight stitch was used throughout, with a longish stitch length. I stretched the fabric a bit during the sewing - though boiled and fairly solid, it still did have some of the knit/jersey "give", and the

The colours are a bit strange in the next photo ... the yellow is more golden than mustardy in the original, and the new one is definitely not pink!
Oops, still the pocket to put on ... a very important feature. 

My focus in making this today was the desire to wear it this evening. Just like in teenage days - needing something new to wear to a party (remember that?) and getting some fabric and a pattern, and whipping something up. Such a satisfaction, then and now.

14 October 2017

Dressmaking is in the pipeline

Despite efforts to convince myself otherwise, because I love the wonderful purpley-brown colour - and the warmth of boiled wool - I have to recognise that the skirt recently purchased doesn't fit. The larger size was comfortably loose but the waist was ... well, was there a waist? ... and the smaller, which came home for a better assessment, is a bit snug round the thighs and the waist is still wrong.

Then, a lightbulb moment - take a pattern from the garment, adjust it, and look for boiled wool at the Knitting & Stitching show. 

It's been a while since I attempted any garment sewing - 2015 in fact. And even longer since making a pattern - the book that got me going on this was published in 1996 - "Patterns from Finished Clothes: Recreating the clothes you love" by Tracy Doyle. 

Here we are ready to start - "like a patient etherized upon a table" comes to mind - but no finished garments will be harmed in the process....
Getting this far involved finding the tracing wheel, which involved a LOT of turmoil in the studio, sorting through shelves and cupboards and delving into baskets and boxes. The mess remains, but that's ok for now.

A garment needs more than its shell - there's lining (still to buy) and "notions". I found some petersham ribbon in my Ribbons drawer (yes, a whole drawer full of ribbons, excessive I know) - never mind that it's white for a dark skirt, it's an internal waistband and will be a mark of individuality. White for the purple one, and yellow (though it's a bit narrow) for the navy one. And zips of the right length - and colour - emerged from the "recycled zips" drawer. Result!
 As for the ladybird dress started in 2015 - it needs a fitting session, first of all, and then I can take a deep breath and get to grips with putting in the zip ... something I used to be able to do with my eyes closed.

Now the skirt pattern has been traced and checked and adjusted and is ready to use -
The boiled wool is having a gentle pre-wash - 
 and the next patient is etherized on the table -
This will be made in the red fabric, a thin, part-viscose boiled wood, which was washed on arrival and is currently drying.

13 October 2017

At The Rookery

The Rookery is a cafe stop on the Crystal Palace to Streatham stretch of the Capital Ring. We didn't have a coffee there, but did descend to the lower terrace to look at the old garden. The house, and two of the mineral springs that made Streatham into a spa town in the 18th century, have gone, but thanks to the efforst of local residents the park has remained, and also the gardens.
Against the light, and gently waving in the breeze

What are these? some sort of lily?


Ferns populate the remaining mineral-springs, now a well

... a well under repair ...

"The Well House (or Streatham Wells as it is referred to on John Rocque's map of 1746) was built in the early C18 to house visitors to the spa which developed around the mineral springs discovered at Streatham in 1659. The adjacent house, The Rookery, was rebuilt and enlarged to accommodate the numerous visitors; it was demolished in 1912.

In 1911 the 3 acre (1.25ha) site was threatened with redevelopment and was purchased for £3,075, raised by public subscription. The Rookery was presented to London County Council in 1912; it was then added to Streatham Common and opened as a public park in July 1913.

In 1923 the London County Council published a description of The Rookery which included an Old English Garden, a wild garden, a white garden, and two 'majestic' cedars on the lawns." (source)

Elsewhere on the walk, vistas of the North Downs - 
We started at Crystal Palace overground station, which has a grandeur befitting arriving at a palace (which, though made of glass, unfortunately burnt down in the 1930s) -
 Near the station was an arts cafe, with this beautifully shibori-textured kimono for sale -

12 October 2017

Woodblock printing research (and Poetry Thursday)

One of the "personal aims" that I added to the pre-course evaluation form (yes the forms are a nuisance but they can be useful for focusing your mind...) was to research the topic. As three of the eight sessions are now over with, it's time to get going on this.

(Another aim, not written on the form because it's come to me slowly, is to figure out "why woodcut". Reflecting on the process, in comparison to linocuts, I do love the sound of the wood (shina plywood) being cut, and this would be lost in linocutting. Also the wood needs respect - bits can come loose if you're not careful. And the gaining of skill takes care, which means taking time, which means slowing down and "mindfulness" - which is a good thing in this hectic world.)

Fortuitously, in the search for a book about postwar japanese prints, this book emerged from my shelves -
Cover: Black Horse by Jerzy Panek, 1959
It accompanied a national touring exhibition of "xylography" in 1993/4, and is a succinct introduction to the topic. (Also it's the perfect size for taking along in a pocket for reading on a Tube journey.)

The pictures range from Joan Hassall's tiny, detailed wood engraving to Ken Kiff's expansive cuts on plywood -
 and from Erich Heckel (1919) to Ando Hiroshige (1857) -

Joan Hassall (1906-88) supplies the illustration to the Poetry Thursday component of this post (just look at that fur) -

A Dead Mole

Strong-shouldered mole,
That so much lived below the ground,
Dug, fought and loved, hunted and fed,
For you to raise a mound
Was as for us to make a hole;
What wonder now that being dead
Your body lies here stout and square
Buried within the blue vault of the air?

by Andrew Young (1885-1971); the book was published by Jonathan Cape in 1950.