Thursday, 24 December 2009

The youth of today

For the most part, I’ve been enjoying the snow. I’m not a fan of cold weather, but I love it when the big fluffy flakes are coming down. But the accumulation is making for slippery surfaces. I’ve not become an NHS statistic, but yesterday as I was out last-minute-shopping, I had that dignity shredding experience of falling flat on my bum. I’m not sure what sort of noise I made, but the young man, a teenager, just crossing the street ahead of me took out his in-earphones and turned around to ask if I was o.k., bless. He didn’t move on until I was standing up again.
Why does this episode get a blog entry? Because it occurred to me that I could use it in a story sometime. Yes, it would seem contrived to have characters meet because one of them slips on the ice, but it would also be realistic. Even though I’ve not made any progress in editing my nanowrimo novel, I still seem to want to write more. How can I use my time on the bus to do this? I’m not sure. There’s no reason why I couldn’t edit the novel on the bus; it’s just that I find it hard to do, and hard to want to do. It’s tempting to try to crochet snowflakes instead. But it doesn’t matter either way at the moment, because I’m off work until the new year.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Tap-a tap-a tap-a

I finished my nanowrimo novel on the 30th! My total word count was just over 50,000 and I haven’t worked up the energy to read it yet, but I did hit that deadline, see winner decal to prove it. I made P a “Support Staff” decal for all the help he gave me. He even told me at the end that what I’d written was the size of the Ice Schooner by Michael Moorcock, and that made me feel quite impressed with myself.
The organizers are correct in saying it is possible to write a full rough draft of a small novel, but it is a big task. I’ve neglected other interests and even stuff like shopping for boots. Plus I’ve not been getting enough exercise. Sitting and typing leads to a flabby bottom. If I do more writing, I will have to exercise properly, too.
Was it worth it? I am proud to have done it, but the novel will take a lot more work before it’s even in a state where I could ask someone (probably P again) to read over it. At the moment, it makes sense to me, and I still like the overall story, but I have a feeling it isn’t going to be readable until I put in at least the same amount of time editing it. My previous experience at editing on the bus tells me that it’s not as easy as writing. At the moment, I’m having a rest. I didn’t have time to plan any other activity for after writing on the bus, so I’m just watching pigeons and seagulls on my commute.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

My trip to Cardiff

Had a brilliant time in Cardiff. Despite what I had seen on the interwebs, it is a very civilized place. P did point out we were hanging around in the equivalent of the Deansgate area, posh shops and hotels, but still I stick to my opinion that it is a nice city. Saw more homeless people than I’d have expected to, so it’s not like it’s perfect. But I also notice lots of recycling stuff, including a poster for a kitchen waste scheme, and a graffiti sticker saying Love Celtic Hate Racists, which I approved of. Plus, the local brewery is called Brains (I kid you not) and seeing that on so many pub signs gives the place an imminent zombie invasion vibe.

The castles (Cardiff Castle and Castell Coch) were amazing, for thosewith an appreciation of neo-gothic interior design and for those who just like to laugh at those crazy Victorians. I hadn’t realized that William Burgess had been so involved in the redecoration the 3rd Bute dude did at Cardiff Castle, so that was a nice surprise for me (having been really temped down to Cardiff when I found out about the Burgess redevelopment of Castell Coch). They were both characters, oddidealistic Victorians with loads of money. I find it very interesting that the richest man in the Victorian era spent a good deal of money on stately pleasure domes, which in a few generations were handed over to the public for economic reasons. So now we all get to enjoy them. The guides at Cardiff Castle and Castell Coch both had the genuine enthusiasm of people who love their work.

The bus ride out to Castell Coch was straightforward, and the driver gave me instructions for walking up to the castle (as well as telling me the correct way to say it- bit like coke and loch, not like a rooster). The tourist information leaflet did say it was an uphill walk, which seemed an odd thing to say, but when you head up the last part of the hill, it is a steep climb. The castle sort of sneaks up on you, and it is really like going into a fairy tale. Fitting, as the decoration features Aesop’s fables and crystal balls.

The weather featured rain showers and howling wind, making it even more romantic, especially enjoyable if you were in the nicely heated rooms. Unlike the days of rain here, the Cardiff area seems to get short, sharp showers followed by clear spells, not long enough to dry off, but long enough to feel foolish if you keep your hood up.

The tea room at Castell Coch is also perfectly charming. Though I onlyhad a cup of tea, the homemade cakes looked scrumptious. Very cosy. Bit disappointed that the Welsh recipes tea towel they had was for using, not for sale at the gift shop. I got one with animals from the fable’s instead.

Another pleasant thing about Cardiff is the thriving haberdasheries on City Road. I especially liked Butterfly Fabrics, where they didn’t mind me ogling the Liberty prints before buying a much cheaper fabric on special offer. I also got some sweet butterfly trim. Hopefully, both will inspire me to do some sewing. After reading the Art of fabric collage by Rosemary Eichorn, I’m hoping to try something like that in December, lots of layers, lots of patterns. But not with Burgess style patterns. I just don’t have that completely over the top attitude.

The novel writing took a bit of a hit while I was away. I was too worn out by sightseeing to write much (I strained my neck gawking at everything), though I did get a bit done. I’m now about 5 days behind where I should be. In a way, I’m looking forward to the end of the month, just so I can stop writing all the time, or rather, in all my free time. But until then, I still have the motivation to continue.

Monday, 16 November 2009

You’re halfway there!

I’m still working on my nanowrimo novel. Most days I’ve managed to scribble out notes on the bus, then after dinner I’ll start typing them in and add a bit more while I’m at it. During the first week, I’d only get about 550 words written on a weekday. I improved in week two to writing 800 words, but it still means that at the halfway point I’m only at 22,000 words.

I’ve been enjoying writing on the bus, but I admit that what has kept me going is Pete’s encouragement.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Overheard this morning

Standing beside two older white men at the bus stop, I realized they were discussing the race issue. "...Jamaicans, Chinese, all mixing together. It's great!"

Viva la Manchester.

My nanowrimo project is going fine, putting down lots of notes on the commute to work. Must get typing now.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

November plans

Despite having a lovely holiday earlier this month, I just have the feeling I haven’t done anything. My love of wrapping plastic circles in string has evaporated- though I still think it is an interesting project, I just don’t have the motivation to do it.

Despite motivation problems, I decided to go ahead and try to write a novel this month, joining the nanowrimo gang. I’ve surprised myself with the amount of writing I have done this year, but I’m not sure I have novel writing abilities. In fact, I still haven’t finished the short story I started last year (“Almost there…”). In a way, I am setting myself up for failure, but considered differently, I’m getting a chance to succeed. Is there any right way to see things?

Anyway, it sorts out what to do with my free time in November.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Rant about agism

My mother in law sent a link to a Woman’s Hour segment, because she knows I’m interested in embroidery. Perhaps I’m just showing my age, but I do get a bit grumpy when people talk about a ‘new generation’ making embroidery exciting. IMHO, these people are just expressing their ignorance of embroidery and other arts and crafts in general. I’m not an expert on embroidery (just an enthusiast), but I know people of all ages are innovating, and also following well established paths. And they aren’t mutually exclusive groups.

It didn’t help my mood when Twisted Threads (who did the excellent quilt show this summer) sent out a picture of happy people at the Knitting and Stitching Show who all looked younger than me. It’s great to see them enjoying the event, but I can’t help thinking the image excludes a lot of older people who also had a great time there.

One of the great things about handicraft is that age doesn’t matter. I remember an embroidery kit I did as a child, a paint pony and stylized sun on light green canvas. Straight stitch and satin stitch in big, chunky threads; simple, effective. No idea where it is now, but I still enjoy the memory. And I fully intend to enjoy embroidery for the rest of my life. Maybe I’ll even get good at it!

But before I sound too negative, I do have to agree with what Ms Gardiner said on Woman’s Hour- I’m not interested in debates about art, I just want to embroider and enjoy other people’s work as well. As a guild member, I ought to be more concerned about promoting embroidery, but thinking like that makes my brain hurt. I don’t really want to argue a point; I want to play with string.
starting rings
At the moment, that means wrapping plastic rings from drinks bottles.
The plan is to use them on a larger fabric piece for the embroidery
display this spring, pulling together lots of scrap fabrics, but all generally red.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Decisions, decisions

Time is flying away from me (for example, today's trousers were purchased in May, but I only finished hemming them yesterday). It was probably over a week ago that I finally decided what to do with the comic- publishing it though a service like Lulu, to get a high quality, full colour book. Obviously, that would be the end product, not the next stage. The next stage would be a really big commitment to drawing it properly, getting the lettering in, inking, etc. In a way, I’d love to be a comic book artist, so it would be fun to make a ‘polished’ comic. But, my drawing skills aren’t up to it at the moment. It would be quite a learning curve to go from where I am now to being able to consistently draw in a classic comic book style. Realistically, I’m not sure if I can focus myself that much. Also, I haven’t been drawing much at the moment, which doesn’t bode well for the amount of drawing the comic will take. It may be a resolution for next year, but I don’t want to set myself up to fail. Committing to finishing the comic would also mean I wouldn’t be able to concentrate my energy on crafting projects. That would make the bus my main crafting time (but I haven’t been doing that much crafting at home recently).

I’ve not reached a decision about participating in the Nanowrimo in November. I don’t honestly think I can write a novel’s worth of prose in a month, but I think it may be interesting to try. I have a lot of trouble with writing, but I have felt good about the short story and comic. So if I did write a novel (even a bad one), I’d feel terrific about it.

As far as crafting goes, my current activity is wrapping thread around rings from juice cartons. I’ve got some ideas about using them in a piece of embroidery for a display next year. Not sure if it will work, and I can’t remember the deadline for the completed piece, but it’s something to play with. Last week I wasn’t organized enough to get any crafting done. And now, I can't decide what tags to put with this post! Oh well, I'll try to think of some for next time.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Tribute to Nora Wrightson

I never knew Nora Wrightson, but I have the greatest respect for her as a craftsperson. She had been active in the Manchester branch of the Embroiderers Guild and had served as treasurer (this was well before I joined). But I know she must have been a great stitcher because of her legacy. Nora died recently, and her family have very nicely asked the branch to distribute her crafting supplies and books to people who will make use of them. I’ve benefited greatly from this by getting a copy of Constance Howard’s Book of Stitches. It’s even signed by Constance, who is a justly famous embroiderer. I can feel the inspiration bubbling up!

Monday, 7 September 2009

Prototype zippered rag-bag

I never did knit on the bus- I think I’m afraid to wave knitting needles around like that. Instead, I’ve been prototyping a variation on the rag-bag that I got from Tanglecraft. The idea is to sew a zipper to a lining fabric, then put the card frame inside that lining. The warp is stitched through the fabric of the zipper rather than laced over a comb, but the weaving pattern is the same: weave side one, flip, weave side two, flip and repeat.

prototype zipper rag-bag

It took about two weeks to make, and obviously requires some non-bus time to get the sewing done. Here’s the breakdown:

The Good:

  • Smaller size frame is easier to handle without a shed stick. Most of the weaving was done using a hair clip to thread the weft through, then a darning need to fill in the top bits.

  • Used some tiny (like under 3 inches long) bits of blue yarn I had scavenged at the 8th Day knitting club ages ago. I do like how these rag weavings can incorporate tiny bits of colour.

The Bad:

  • The chenille yarn was nice to touch, but doesn’t slide through the warps well. It was tricky near the top, but impossible to use when ‘filling-in’ the bit at the bottom (Perhaps I hadn’t pushed the first rows of weaving down enough, but the warps at the bottom were naked where they went over the edge. I filled it in with the green yarn using a darning needle.)

  • It was nearly impossible to get the card out of the bag when the weaving was finished. I had overestimated how far the zipper unzipped. Even after bending the card, I still caught and snapped the warp thread at the far end. It wasn’t hard to tie back together, but it could be a flaw in the whole process. Or maybe it’s just because I used a chunky zipper.

  • After the problems with getting the card out, I zipped the bag shut and the head of the zipper came off the end! Luckily it aligned and went back on. The zipper also caught the lining fabric. Zippers are tricky.

The Ugly:

  • The un-even edge to the warp threads where they are sewn into the zipper. I tried covering these with a line of un-even chain stitch, and it was an improvement. Future experiments need to be more precise in stitching the warp.

  • I think, though I’m not certain, that I strung the warp wrong. Using the comb loom, the pattern of warping only works one way, so the sides match up. I think with sewing in the zipper as the top of the loom, I started or stopped on the wrong side. This may have made the side edges a bit looser than they ought to be. Again, future experiments with more precise warping should clarify how it would work best. (Meaning, I just need to pay more attention to what I’m doing. Mindfulness.)

  • The ends of the zipper stick out at the top, and the weft doesn’t cover them. I added some stitching when it was off the frame, but it looks rough. Zippers are tricky.

That’s a lot of bad and ugly, but it was a good prototyping exercise. I know the idea works, it’s just a question of refining it.

Truth is, I don’t need a coin purse- I’m perfectly happy with the wallet I’ve had for the last 10 years. But I’m interested in trying to make a pencil case, or maybe a bag for an odd shaped object, like a ukulele. It’s a case of curiosity rather than necessity.

Also, to make my blog more usable, I’m going to try to tag entries now. Hopefully each entry tagged as a prototype will be followed up by a beta, then finally with a set of full instructions. It’s a plan.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Happy Blog-birthday to me!

Please, and yes, proud, that I have been keeping this blog for a year now. I’ve just read over what I’ve posted in the last year. I feel like I haven’t done much. Does that mean I set my sights too high? One of the reasons for the blog is to track my ‘working speed’, just so I can know what I can expect of myself. I really don’t want my hobbies to feel like hard work.

I’m disappointed in myself for not making the great gift for P, and I’m disappointed that I haven’t finished that quilt. (Though with the weather getting cold again, it may be nice to work on the quilt more.) I’m also a bit annoyed that I haven’t completed the clanger.

I’m really pleased by the wool-ball bears and Otis Redherring. The weaving (my current craft is another weaving) has been nice, and I’m fairly happy with the crochet. Though I feel like the writing and comic projects are only half-way there, I’m happy about the half that’s done.

There’s so many things to do, so much fun to be had; and I’m easily overwhelmed by it all, unable to decide what to do with myself. I think the blog will help with this, but it will be a long process.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Quilt show report

Just back from a lovely trip to Birmingham. The fantastic Festival of Quilts at the NEC drew me there, but also had a nice visit with relatives and checked out the Warehouse Café and ate at Jyoti's (fantastic Indian vegetarian restaurant and sweet centre- 1045 Stratford Road). We’d been to the Jyoti's before, at the old premises, and the food is just wonderful. I recommend the pani puri, and the bhajiya selection is both many and varied as well as extremely tasty.

The Warehouse Café was new to us- how have we overlooked it for 15 years? The raspberry vegan milkshake is perfect on a hot day, and I love the mis-matched table and chair theme they’ve got going. And the wholefoods shop next door was convenient for travel snacks.

But for the main attraction: Festival of Quilts 2009 was exhausting, in a very good way. I’m not much of a quilter, but the stuff on show was so impressive. A friend in the Embroiderers Guild had told me about last year’s show, and this one more than lived up to my expectation. I arrived early, around 10:30, and before noon I was already suffering from inspiration overload. My pictures don’t do justice to everything there.

swag from trip to BirminghamBest thing at the show: Fair Trade Fabric Ltd stall! For years, I’ve been reluctant to buy non-fair trade fabric, but not been able to find fair trade fabrics for sale. It looks like things are changing for the better! The fabric is lovely to touch and I suspect it will be wonderful to work with. Now I need to find a project to make with it!

A confession: I was really bad and didn’t buy a catalog on the way in, and when I was leaving, my mind was too numb to remember to buy one then; so I’ve been unfortunately negligent in crediting the quilters whose work I photographed and put my flickr page, and I also can’t credit anyone on my blog. How embarrassing.

Quilting stuff to note:

  • Loads of ideas for yo-yos or Suffolk puffs, as flowers, berries, sea urchins and as yo-yos

  • Folding fabric, almost like origami, so a diagonal square stands out from the background square

  • Fabric manipulated so it doesn’t lay flat: peaks, folds, puffs, wrinkles, tassels, ribbons, etc.

  • Frayed edges- a stall was calling it ‘fake chenille’- a figurative quilt used it as a ploughed field, another had a frayed edge fringe

  • The best of show group quilt wonderfully put together, lovely soft colours (which I see as modern- not part of my traditional quilting lingo). Beautiful. I overhead a criticism that it was a great quilt, but not original, and so of course started thinking of the role of originality in art. And it strikes me that any quilt made here today is art, as in it isn’t simply a functional item. If you’re cold in bed, you buy a £20 duvet and cover set. Quilts are items people just want to make.

  • A book made of quilt squares- Flowers of Malaysia- I especially loved the bamboo, like the strip quilts, but representational and not static

  • There are so many ways to represent animals on quilts. I loved the Animal-tastic quilt, and another quilt with a snail with bead eyes

  • Morsbags were being made! They targeted the audience well, as I noticed several people with lovely quilted bags

  • Plenty of products and even a demonstration area on printing/dyeing/colouring fabric. Maybe I can make some of my horded fabrics more exciting

  • Embroidered patches integrated into larger quilts, as well as embroidery as an additional element in the quilting

The only bad point of the day is that I didn’t find any nylon embroidery ribbon. I did notice some silk embroidery ribbon, but I feel too sorry for the silk worms to buy that. Shall have to keep looking.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

How does your garden grow?

BroochesThe purple flower is finished and has acquired a safety pin. I’ve got a collection of pins that I never wear, and the flower is with them now. The woven centre worked well; the colour is great but my weaving is a bit uneven (not that I’m bothered). It may have been a bit much to add the three loops of beads at the centre.

The beading made me realize I’d been thinking wrong again, trying to separate the bus crafting from other things I do. The beading had to be done at home, where I could sit still with needle, thread and clear seed beads. I had been thinking that this would mean the flower wasn’t 100% bus craft. It took a while for me to work out that the point of crafting on the bus isn’t to make something entirely on the bus, but to get a bit of hands-on work done during my commute.

Next week, I’m going to try knitting on the bus. It’s school holiday time, so the bus isn’t as crowded as it usually is. Hopefully it will get my Clanger project going again! My planned weaving project will just have to wait a bit longer, conveniently giving me more time to get supplies together.

Actual gardening note: We ate green beans grown on our balcony yesterday! Good has triumphed over best.

Friday, 31 July 2009

Before and after

This is the postcard I wove, from the DIY Weaving Club:

Textile Message

I posted it to Su, and you can see the ‘after’ on her blog! Not undamaged, but I'm so glad I posted it.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Wrong thinking

On the weekend, I thought I should just put away the purple flower crochet, and start on a new weaving project. But that would mean I would have to put away the crochet somewhere, and thinking that made me realise I was thinking about this wrong. I have this ‘issue’ with using up stuff, and I was actually anxious about wasting the purple string on a project I might not like. But why do I have the string if not to use it on this flower? So, rather than putting it away, I started to work on it more. And I’m starting to like it more, with that extra layer of crochet on it.

I also decided to add a nicer embroidery thread in the centre, something less shocking than the bright yellow, then use the yellow just for some final stitches in the centre. A good exercise in not hording.

crochet bus craft in progress

Additional bonus: P just gave me a bit of cardboard which will be great for the weaving project I aim to do next!

And a note: Finally posted the woven postcard- wonder if it will arrive?

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Not writing

My writing on the bus hasn’t progressed at all. I think the concentration needed to edit is more than what’s needed to write. Maybe that’s a comment on my writing skills!

Anyway, I’m switching the writing to an ‘at home’ project for now. On the bus, I’m going to play with a bit of crochet. I had started a Dorset Cross Wheel button at an Embroidery Guild meeting. After starting the edge, I thought it would be better as a flower, but then I lost in on my craft table (yes, it’s in a disgraceful state). The current plan is to see if I can crochet a few petal shapes onto it. Pictures of any successes will follow!

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Negative space

Tuesday, I finally got a grip on what negative space is. I’ve been doing a light weight 6 wk course on 2D design at Urbis, and though it has been fun to try batik and some sketching techniques, I hadn’t felt like I was learning much until the exercise last night. The exercise was just the one where you cut out lots of the same shape, then arrange them in different patterns. I had heard of this before, but
never done it.

Cutting a very simple shape (based on a rubbing from a drain pipe fitting on the Triangle, which I had made at an earlier class), then arranging on paper, and being able to see the different shapes that made. It all became clear! At least for a while.

On a bus crafting note, currently I’m back to writing the sprite thief story, taking on board suggestions made and my own ideas for improvement.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

What am I doing?

I'm wondering, are bloggers in general over-achievers? Am I comparing myself, or rather my blogging and crafting, to workaholics? In my own mind, I identify as a slacker- I don't have loads of energy and drive. If I try to do too much, I go all scatter-brained and forget stuff (like my keys). Trying to do more is like setting myself up for failure, which does no one any good, and myself a load of bad.

I usually tell myself I just need to get organized, prioritise better, focus on just one thing, focus on what's important to me. But to be honest, I know that won't work. Now I don't want to sit around doing nothing, but I don't want to load my life with pressure to do stuff, especially stuff that doesn't matter much either way. I want to just enjoy life, have fun, and not cause any bother. But I feel like that would be a bad thing to do. Not quite criminal, but bad. Like I was wasting my potential.

Recently, I've been trying to relax more. But I'm annoyed that I haven't been working on projects as much as I want to. And there's always the other stuff to do as well. Never satisfied.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Trip to Gallery Oldham

I had a nice visit to Gallery Oldham today. The Fairies exhibit by Samantha Bryan is what tempted me out there. (Yes, it’s only 15 mins on the train, but still I had to be tempted out.) Her work isn’t exactly my cup of tea, but I find it interesting to see what she’s doing. She uses paper clay to sculpt the heads, and all sorts of bits go into the sculptures. I did like the buttons used as wheels. Possibly the problem I have with Samantha Bryan’s work is that she makes sculptures rather than toys. “Do not touch” tags bug me.

The next gallery along was a pleasant surprise, as I’m not familiar with either artist but really liked the sculptures. An Englishman, a Scotsman and a Tree: Paul Aston and James Castle, is only at Gallery Oldham until 27 June 09, but I do recommend it. The work and the gallery space was just refreshing. Photography was permitted in that room, so here’s a favourite of mine:

sculptures by Paul Aston

It makes me want to put dots on all my furniture.

Also, the exhibit called A Lost Landscape: Roger Hampson was very interesting 9on until 25 July). Hampson was a Northern, post-WW2 artist, who seems to have known that the common lifestyle in his native land was dying out. Fascinating from a socio-historical perspective: the clogs, the Walking Days, workers in mills and mines. It would have been nice to have more description with the images, but a whole book would have been more appropriate.

Last note: I did get slightly lost and ended up in the education area inside the library, where one of the craft displayes featured painted plastic bottle tops, and another had a quilt of apliqued hands with embroidered decoration. Neat!

Monday, 8 June 2009

Very bad day

I'm sickened by the fact that I live with 132,094 racists who voted for the BNP, and that means their leader is now one of my MEPs.

I'm not a British or EU citizen yet, but I've booked my Life In The UK test, and I'll be saving up the £750. Next election, at least I'll be able to vote.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Manchester Fab Lab

Tuesday, I went to a very interesting talk by Dr Eddie Kirkby, head of charitable operations for the Manufacturing Institute. He's in charge of setting up a Fab Lab in Manchester, and hopes it will be up and running by the end of this year. I made notes, but can't say I took everything down correctly or completely, but the project does sound really cool.

The Fab Lab idea started at MIT. Very open source ethos influenced. I think the set up is generally enough to go from idea to prototype, but it also seems to be a place to make stuff. Not a factory, but definitely somewhere you could build a one-off piece of, well, whatever you can think of.

The current plan for fitting out a local lab includes:

  • CAD/CAM software

  • lazer cutter

  • lathe

  • moulding and casting facility for stuff made of plastics, silicon, chocolates, etc., but not metal

  • 3D printer and scanner

  • vinyl cutter

  • maybe something for printing curcuits (can't see this in my notes, but I think it was mentioned)

It won't have anything to work hard substances (iron, granite), so if your idea called for something like that, either that component would have to be made elsewhere, or you could do a prototype in available materials, but you wouldn't be able to stress test it.

As I understand it, the fab lab would be free to use with agreement to the fab lab charter. Users need to know how to use the equipment (or learn by sharing knowledge), and document the design and process for other fab lab users (this is a world-wide network- not just Mancunian). If you want to work in secret, you will be able to rent the space (cheap, if Dr Kirkby's estimate proves correct) and work all on your own. Staff time can also be purchased (at the moment 'staff' means a manager and an assistant manager, but volunteers are being sought as well), and they plan to do workshops and team-building events to generate income, and participate in open innovation challenges (no- I didn't understand what that means, but one involved new crisp flavours [what's wrong with salt and vinegar? I say]). I think Dr Kirkby said funding was already in place for 2 years.

The proposed site is currently somewhere on Oldham Road, but this isn't confirmed yet. And the Manchester Fab Lab website isn't up yet either, but the nice eddiek said he'll email a load of us with updates.

I'm excited about it. Even though it is a 'manufacturing initiative' the ethos is weloming to arts/crafts endeavours.

The talk was organized by the Manchester Inventors Group.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Comic sketch success!

Honestly, I didn’t think placing a time limit on the comic book buscrafting would work, and I’m not sure how it did, but on the Friday commute to work I finished roughing out the last page! Magnifico! Still not sure what the next step will be with the comic, but it feels good to have the whole 22 pages roughly sketched out. I’m thinking the next stage is to actually figure out how to take it to a finished product, then decide if that’s do-able.

My next buscraft ought to be to try out tatting. A woman at the knit club that meets at the 8th day was showing me how to do it earlier this week. As I decided to try new things this year, it would be ideal to start on that next week. But I don’t have a tatting shuttle, a pattern, or a clue how to start. So again, I need to figure out what

to do.

Which is nice in a way, because it will give me a chance to do some of the weaving projects that have been building up- my DIY Weaving Club Membership Card, a postcard and, assuming I finish the second clanger, a clanger dress.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Screen printing: not a buscraft

Yesterday, I went to one of the Handmade socials at Urbis- it was a session about how to screen print run by Ayesha Ansari, an enthusiastic community artist. I knew I wanted to make a stencil from one of P's photos, but Ayesha thought it was too small, so I added the house to it.

Screen printing is really fun. Ayesha's enthusiasm for it is catching! I'm glad I went to a session where I could try it out, because I've read about it but didn't understand the process until yesterday. The whole point of the screen is to hold the stencil in place. We just used thick paper for the stencils, but I can see how a plastic one would be more durable. I'm now wondering about using confetti, leaves or feathers; and could you use a thick screen, like a bit of hessian, to have a patterned painted section?

It is tempting to buy some basic equipment, but I think I need to let the ideas brew for a while. Lots of other stuff in the pipe already, but if I can find space for a screen in my craft area I suspect it will go on my wish list.

And for the buscraft report: I've now roughed out 11 pages, but finding it very slow. I hadn't realised how mentally taxing the layout of the comic book would be, and honestly, I'm just not at my sharpest first thing in the morning or right after work. Twice I've thought I should just put it away and try something else, but then had fresh ideas and made progress with the comic again. Frustrating. I'm going to stick at it this week (just 4 days) and maybe next weekend try to finish this stage off.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

This comic writing malarkey

Tuesday to Thursday, I did rough sketches of seven consecutive pages, Friday I did nothing, and today I've decided that pages 4-7 are too rough and need re-sketched. I'm also flummoxed about how to show an aerial battle scene. Also, the comic is going to be much shorter than I originally thought.

As a buscraft, the open A5 ring binder is just a bit big- I held it so it was sticking out into the aisle by accident one morning. There's no way to draw or write neatly, but my scribbles are recognizable to me. I'm not sure if I'll ever develop them into tidy drawings, but it would be possible.

Note- here's my not-ill-gotten gains:

art goodies

It doesn't look like much, but that's £104 of art supplies and stuff. I'm making a note here, because I'm curious about how long it will take for me to use any of it.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Almost there...

finished rag bag

A suitable title for a Star Wars Day post, but it also refers to my progress on the DIY Weaving Club Rag Bag project. The buscrafting bit is done, and the basic bag is complete, but I still need to do a lining. Will I ever get around to that?

The weaving was a good craft for the bus. Bits of learning:

  • it's easier to get the shuttle through if there's not too much yarn wound on it, this is more important as the weaving reaches the top and there's  less play in the warp

  • near the top of the weaving, basically the bit that goes up over the comb, using the chip fork to lift individual warps and then shove the weft thread underneath was much easier than trying to put the chip fork through a shed

  • weave up to the top as much as possible- I left too much of a gap and ended up filling it after taking the loops off the comb (I suppose if I had used a really thick string or length of fabric, it would have worked alright without in-filling)

  • people are nervous of sticks waving around

  • string falls out of upturned carrier bags

Now that the weaving is complete, I'm going to try something different: drawing a comic book. I'm tired of thinking that I can't draw well enough to do the style of comic I'd like to. It discourages me from drawing at all. So, I'm going to take my sketch book on the bus, and just have a bash at it. The idea is that there's no way to draw neatly on a bus that's jostling its way through rush hour traffic, therefore the pressure to draw neatly disappears! I'll be lucky to have anything recognizable at the end of the journey, but anything I do will be better than just feeling bad about not being able to draw how I want to.

And I'm a bit overwhelmed by all the fabric crafting that I've built up. Joyce at the Embroiderers Guild was advising finishing one thing before starting another. Awfully good advice.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Review of An Embroiderer's Eye

Today I took the train to Macclesfield to see the Embroiderer's Eye: the Diana Springall collection at the Macclesfield Silk Museum's Paradise Mill.

The BNP were handing out leaflets on the high street, which put me off Macclesfield (though the only person I know who lives in Macclesfield isn't a fascist, so I shouldn't judge them all by what they permit on the high street). And I did end up at the wrong Silk Museum because they have 4 sites and their web site is a bit inadequate at explaining what is where or which is what, or something like that.

But on a positive note, I stumbled across a very busy haberdashery shop, I'm not sure if its called Malkin & Pyatt or The Fent Shop, but it had a wide selection of printed fabrics for traditional (or not so traditional) patchwork, and loads of other fabric as well. I may be tempted back when I feel like I've used up enough of the fabric I have in my stash. Or I may just go and buy a meter of that strawberry print, anyway!

The show was small, but still well worth seeing. The quality of the work was so high, and though it was all from one woman's personal collection, there was a wide selection of styles and techniques. I also appreciated seeing some of the sketches or plans for the pieces on display, and a few samples worked up as studies for the finished pieces.

Neat bits:

  • Setting embroidery into plaster of paris, as in Paddy Killer's Stones of Venice; could this technique be used to mix embroidery with tiling or as part of furniture?

  • Saw work by Anne Morrell, whose book I'm re-reading at the moment

  • Liked the pieces by Jane McKeating, which is good because she's a friend of a friend (via work)

  • Impressed with the or nue technique Margaret Nicholson used in Mother and Daughter; can the design process for this technique be applied to wrapping string around sticks?

  • Loved how small bits of fabric were used, especially by Richard Box in Daisies, and Rachel Setford's Sandcastles, which unfortunately isn't in the catalog, and my quick sketch from memory is a bit inadequate

  • Could a stuffed festoon be designed, similar to what Ruth Tudor did, but left soft and flexible?

The show is obviously inspiring. It's making me think again about machine embroidery. The catalog is well worth buying, though some of the pieces just don't photograph well.

Definitely worth the trip, and I did a few more rows on the rag bag. And I think I saw a bunny on the way there.

Saturday, 18 April 2009


Thursday, as I was weaving, I dropped my bag of yarn. Not much fell out onto the floor of the bus, but I couldn’t reach it, mainly because I still had the weaving and a bag of groceries on my lap and the seat beside me was inconveniently occupied. The occupant got off at my usual stop, and I stayed on, putting my shopping bag on the seat and squeezing down between the seats to pick up the bits that had fallen. Luckily, the bus floor was clean(ish) and I didn’t actually loose anything. I easily got off at the next stop, which is actually closer to home.

I’m not planning to invest in a bus crafting box with oodles of handy compartments, but the incident is worth remembering.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Review and update

Because it's supposed to be good to review, here's the list of stuff I was doing around the middle of last month:

  • Add another row onto the quilt

  • Knit clanger to next stage of instructions

  • Cover old headphones

  • Start a patchwork piece

  • Secret step of great birthday present for P

  • Try out the Rag Bag Loom weaving project

  • Bento everyday

And here's the progress report:

The quilt finally got that row added, and it's ready for another. One a month is a bit slow, but I'm still optimistic about finishing this, someday.

The clanger is now up to the row where the arm holes are, so I need to refresh my knitting knowledge. I'm not Wii Fitting everyday, but I have been working on it if I get a spare 5-10 minutes. Again, optimistic, maybe to finish this summer.

The headphones are still an outstanding issue- I just haven't done anything on this one. It's a source of shame.

My patchwork ambitions have been put on hold for the moment, and I'm feeling alright about that. I'm planning to go to the big quilt show at the NEC in August (and visit the in-laws), and it will be just fine to go as an observer rather than a participant.

The next steps in the great-secret-birthday-gift were taken, but then one was un-taken and will need to be re-taken. Another secret step is ready to be taken. I have a feeling this will be a rush job in July.
Buscraft Weaving
The weaving of the rag bag is progressing nicely (see the action shot of me on the way to the great Chorlton Big Green Festival). I do enjoy the weaving, and it is a nice bus riding craft even if I occasionally forget the bit of yarn I want to use. Also, I found a broken polka-dot umbrella at the bus stop that will make a nice bit of lining for the bag, when it finally gets to that stage. It isn't a quick project though, and with a short work week coming up, I'll probably not have a complete bag until after next weekend. This is a tiny bit annoying, because I have my next issue of the Tanglecraft DIY Weaving Club zine, but it will just have to be put in the someday pile for the time being.

Another project note to get down: the balcony and kitchen window sill are now home to some experimental gardening. For years, I've thought about gardening, planning sowing times, reading about container plants, etc, etc, yawn, yawn. This year, I concluded that the best option is to just put a lot of seeds in some compost, water, and see what happens. If anything grows, it will be tons better than just having the seeds sitting in their neat little envelopes. As P is fond of saying, "Best is the enemy of good"

Very disappointing

I've never thought of Amazon as anything more than a company, but their new search algorithm is scandalous. Web protesting isn't something I'm familiar with, so I may get this wrong, but here's a new deffinition of Amazon Rank.

I just can't stomach this kind of homophobia.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Extreme knitting

It is possible to knit and do the Wii Fit free step exercise game AT THE SAME TIME!

As I've aged, it's become more clear to me just how sedentary my lifestyle is: I sit at a desk at work; I sit and sew at home; I sit on the bus. Average steps per day= 3,000. Yep, under a third of what's recommended as a minimum.

Yesterday, I did 20 minutes of stepping and two rows of knitting. That's more of both than I did all weekend. I think the knitting rate will improve as I get used to the stepping.

Making the time to exercise is difficult for me. I'm hoping that my desire to finish the Clanger can be part of the motivation to be more active. But the Wii Fit needs new batteries now.

Otis Redherring

Otis in his garden (4)This is a double-post day because I think Otis deserves his own blog post. I showed him off at the office yesterday, because a few people had been puzzled when I started wiring his armature on my lunch break last Wednesday. He was universally declared a cutie (did that make him blush?) even when he was briefly mistaken for a space alien.

A la the Peacock Chic blog, here's his G-B-U breakdown:

The Good: Cute, pose-able, and he's made of a really fun yarn my mom sent to me. Its label says "Pokeberry Shetland" and it's a hand spun yarn she saw at a fair a few years ago. A wonderfully bouncy, varied texture, perfect for giving a small project loads of visual interest, and fun to touch. (Ya, my mom's great, and she's been spoiling me by sending lots of goodies to play with, so I'm glad I finally have a finished product to show her.) And I'm glad someone was inspired by pokeberries to make something so nice- so many would just see poke as a weed.

The Bad: It's not as elegantly simple as the wool bears. The project needed a wire armature, and the eyes took a lot of stitching with sewing thread. My original idea was for much simpler eyes, but  when I had the yarn and embroidery thread, it just didn't happen. The eyes were so frustrating that I had to put the project down at one point, reminding myself that this was supposed to be fun.

The Ugly: The wire shows through at the end of his little tentacles! I knew this would be an issue, and tried to wrap them tightly, but it wasn't enough. Next time I try to wrap a wire like this, I'll try doing two layers over the folded tips. Also, he has no suckers as I couldn't think how to make them.

I feel sated with wool wrapping projects now. One of my colleagues suggested making a copyright infringing Kang or Karg doll, and another suggested making lots of fish friends, making me think of the possibilities of using two different colours of yarn to make a stripy fish. For now, I'm happy to be weaving on the bus.

And I need to put a BIG THANK YOU to my P, for the photo shoot! His hobby is so convenient for me.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Forgetting and learning

This morning I forgot the key to my desk. On Tuesday, I forgot the keys to the flat. Usually, when I forget things like this, it's because I'm trying to do too much. So, here's what I've got as to-dos for this week:

  • Add another row onto the quilt

  • Knit clanger to next stage of instructions

  • Cover old headphones

  • Start a patchwork piece

  • Secret step of great birthday present for P

  • Try out the Rag Bag Loom weaving project

  • Bento everyday

  • And I had my PDR at work this week (I do love my job, and my manager makes the PDR rather fun, but it's still an odd piece of work)

So, I know from my forgetting that this is too much. So far (Thursday evening), I've worked on the quilt, got to the next stage of knitting, broken (and repaired) the loom, taken a bento for my lunch every day (plus have leftovers ready for tomorrow) and got through the PDR. Oh, and started the wool ball octopus.

The weaving project was going well, though I think the bamboo skewer I was using as a shed stick may have been a bit intimidating. Then on Tuesday, the comb came off the envelope, and so the warp was unsecured. It may have had something to do with being stuffed into a bag along with a few soy milk containers. I had been sceptical of the PVA glue holding the comb, especially for withstanding twisting, so it wasn't too surprising. I left the weaving on the envelope, re-glued the comb, then sewed it down as well. I managed to re-string the warp, and learned more about how the comb and board work to make the loom. So, not a disaster, a learning experience. I hope to continue with the weaving next week. While the loom was being repaired, I started on the wool ball octopus, and I want to finish that tomorrow/this weekend. If I can find the yarn for the eyes (I know I have a bit of yellow yarn, but where?).

Sunday, 15 March 2009

ready to weave?

weaving club goodiesWalking home on Friday, I was met by my P and one of our neighbours, who asked what I had been crafting on the bus. A bit embarrassed to say I had just been reading- I should have explained I was reading the DIY Weaving Club zine and project instructions. I got the package last week, and it does look good. My project for Monday is from the DIY Weaving Club- a RagBag Loom. It took me a few readings to get my head around the instructions (due to me being scatter-brained rather than the instructions not being clear) but I think I’m ready to start it now. The loom and shuttle are glued together, and I’ve got my string selected!

Other notes:

  • Missed the bus on Friday morning- it pulled away just as I reached the stop. I had to laugh, as I was slowed down by the Ska tune in my head, leading me to just mosey along. If it had been a House or Motown track, I would have been at the stop tapping my foot before that bus had got there.

  • On Monday or Tuesday (memory fails me) it was cold enough in the morning to have condensation on the bus windows. “Don’t write your name!” an older sister insisted, then showed her sibling how to draw a dog face based on a stick man and turn the letters boy into a face. “I know those already” was the response, but they were new to me.

  • I did work on the flower, but I’m not satisfied with the result. So instead of being finished, it has gone into another level of not finished. Not feeling inspired to do more flowers.

  • Instead of getting up to work on the quilt this week, I just stayed in bed as late as I could. Still hoping to sew up a row this weekend. I do still want to work on it, but it is going very slow.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Doing and thinking

on the way to workOn Friday, I got off the bus two stops early, took a few pictures and then a 10 minute walk to the office. As I get older, the public health messages about exercise make more sense.

Craft-wise, I wasn’t doing anything earlier in the week, then started another bear on Thursday. It’s with a thicker white yarn, so it will be a polar bear, or in Japanese, shirokuma (shiro for white, kuma for bear). I wonder how much I can say in different languages! (Must look into that learning French series that Chris recommended- in preparation for visiting the mechanical elephant.)

Anyway, I finished the bear on the weekend, after making a mouse at the guild meeting. I’ve put some more ideas for wool ball animals in my journal (the octopus looks like a good one), but for the commute on Monday I think I’ll try to finish a flower I started ages ago, so I can tidy it away. It bugs me that I can't get organized to do stuff. Does that mean I don't really want to do it?
white bear and mouse
What I enjoy more than the doing is the planning- the thinking out how something could be done. The doing is a slog. But there's no other way to test the planning. Hmm.

And I do still want to have stuff finished.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

ball of yarn bear

Ball Bearing(So CUTE!!) The mini-balls of yarn were rolled as I went to and from work on Friday, then on Saturday I sewed them together (using the same yarn). So, not a completely made on the bus craft, but a good use of the time.

The head, nose, body, arms and legs are just small balls of yarn. The nose is a bared fly stitch and the eyes a 4 looped French knot, both with all 6 strands of black embroidery thread. The ears are crocheted: slip knot loop, chain 1, 3 double crochet into the slip knot. Like the limbs, they are sewn on with the same yarn, but with the loose ends of the crochet pulled through the ball of yarn, too.

Really pleased with how this turned out.

And a scheduling note: On our holiday at the Heights Hotel, we met an ex-English team hill runner (lovely woman), who still goes running in the early hours every morning. It inspired me to make an effort to get up (and out of bed) early, and take the time to sketch, craft, or just do something creative.

I failed to finish the story in time for P’s half birthday, and I haven’t returned to work on it yet. And my quilt only has 6 rows on it, with the seventh ready to be stuffed. We bought some storage boxes for me to tidy up my shelves with, and hopefully that will help with having space to work in.

Overall, I’ve not done as much as I had hoped to, but I have done some things. And spring is here.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

week-or-so's update

crochet flowerI got it together and crocheted a flower following Gipsy Quilt's instructions. Mine just isn't as cute as hers- perhaps aiming for 'cute' is a bit too high for me. I'm not sure if the thread I choose is wrong, or if I misunderstood the instructions. Mine looks more like a pile of crochet than like a flower. A bit disspiriting. Maybe it would work better with fewer spirals- I could cut it in two and make two flowers. Or it could be un-spiralled and used as a bit of lace. Anyhow, it's a good activity for the bus, even if I'm not totally happy with the product.

For next week, I'm hoping to work on combining crochet with small balls of yarn to make a mini-teddy-bear. If it works out, I'll need to find someone who would like a mini-teddy-bear.

Another note: must remember the head of the directorate is occassionally on my bus. This isn't a problem, but it could feel like starting work before arriving at the office.

Friday, 6 February 2009

more doing nothing

Thursday morning, the woman who sat beside me on the bus was knitting! She was using a pair of small circular needles on what I think was a sleve for a sweater, but I didn't ask what it was she was knitting. I know, I should have said something encouraging, but I just didn't feel social. Anyway, she moved to a different seat (maybe I smell bad). I've had a cold for about a week now, and not been organized to get anything to do on the commute. My bad.

Wednesday night I noticed one of the strips on my finger knitted scarf was running, and I did repair that. I don't understand how the ravelling started, but it was held up where the strips were linked together so it wasn't hard to repair. The scarf isn't perfect, but it is keeping my neck warm.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Another finished item

My enthusiasm for the weaving
project was on the wane, so on my way to work on Thursday, I decided to finish the length of yarn I
had and then take the piece off the loom/cardstock. As I cut the warp
strings and tied them in place, I was worried that it wouldn't be nice,
or would fall apart! (My worries were probably causing the wane of enthusiasm.) But when I took the weaving off the card my
instant reaction was "It's so cute!"

bus woven bag

Technically, as a weaving it has several problems. I started pulling
on the string more as I went along, so the top is tighter than the
bottom. There are loose strings everywhere, and the warp is most untidy.

But I do think it is cute- like a bag for a doll, hence the Pincess Leia model. Maybe I'll do some card weaving for a strap sometime- but i don't think I could get the tensioning right on the bus. (I have done mini-mobile card weaving on a train, pinning the warp to the knee of my jeans, but I don't fancy trying that with my office trousers.)

My verdict: Small scale weaving is a good craft for the bus ride. If I try it
again, I think I'll aim for something more controlled, maybe with a
representational pattern in different colours. I'm thinking it may be a method of making a patch, or something to add embroidery to. And I'll go read Tanglecrafts for
more inspiration!

So, all that was from last week, but I've had a long weekend (visit from the in-laws and my birthday). I don't have a craft planned for tomorrow, but something will come up, I'm sure.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009


sparkle hatYes, I'm happy that Barack Obama is now President of the United States of America. I sort of accidently arranged a celebratory lunch (I brought vegan hot dogs- very popular) at the office. Loads of people joined in bringing food and decorations- including this hat for me and a matching one for the other American in the office.

I did wear the hat home (it wouldn't fit in my bag). As I was crossing to the bus stop, I notice a student-ish guy on his bike was staring at me. "Happy Obama Day!" I shouted, and he shouted back "Happy Obama Day!"

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Know your limits

I can't hold a bag of groceries, my office knit club clanger project, plan our Obama Inauguration celebration lunch and weave on the bus. I know this now.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Dry thumbs

This must be something that happens every winter, but I've only really noticed it this year because I've been playing with yarn so much: the skin on the inside of my thumbs is slightly chapped, just enough to catch on the fibers of the yarn (a recycled glove) that I've been using. It isn't so bad that it is annoying, just curious.

The weaving itself is curious as well. I'm thinking of calling it crazy weaving, like crazy quilting, suggesting a 'try anything' attitude. Because of the way I've wrapped the card, I have to intentionally mis-weave every so often. I can't be more accurate than that, because I think I'm unintentionally mis-weaving as well. The fabric I'm building up is very fluffy, and I'm not sure if it will hold together when I take it off the card. I'm also wondering if it feels softer because my hands are chapped?

Anyway, I had considered taking it apart and starting again with a closer wrapped warp, but decided to stick with it the way it is. I'm curious to see how it will come out.

On a non-bus crafting note, some quick maths has led me to the conclusion that I was rather un-realistic in thinking I can finish the pocket quilt this winter. It takes me about a week to add a row to it, and there are about 20 rows to add. So, with holidays, that makes it possible to finish in May, unless I dedicate some weekends to the project. As P has pointed out, it is already functional as it is big enough to keep my lap warm as I work on it. At the moment, I'll feel accomplished if I can complete one row a week, and if that means finishing in May rather than March, then that's the way it will have to be.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Happy 2009!

It’s the new year! This year, I’m not going to make any resolutions- I’m not looking to make any changes to my life right now, just try to keep up with what I’ve got to do. But there are things I want to do, or would like to get done, and done this year. Not 100 things, but for example:

  • Finish the pocket quilt I started in Oct 07 (ideally this winter, as it isn’t a good warm weather project)

  • Patch the kimonos

  • Cover P’s old headphones

  • Finish the Sprite Thief story

  • Mad Scientist episode 2

  • Get kitchen re-modelled

  • Start bento boxing for lunch at work

  • Go through recipe files and un-fileds

  • Make an apron (I promised this to myself ages ago, well, I think last summer)

  • The secret-great-present-for-P (possibly for August)

  • Finish the robot toy I started designing

  • Trolleys for plants

  • Finish the de-mildew process

There are other, less concrete things as well: comment on blogs, remember birthdays, ideas for drawings or comics or stories, trying to garden on the balcony, tidying the apartment, try crazy quilting.

And I’d like to try new things in 2009. I think I’ve become a bit too reticent, too habitual, too afraid to take small risks. So, just as a way of nudging my decision processes this year, I’m going to try new things, generally speaking, rather than opting for the same old thing.

So, how does this tie in with buscrafting? Well, I had been planning to do finish another wrapped flower, but now I’m going to try weaving instead! I finally visited the Tanglecrafts blog, and her weave-on-anything attitude has rekindled my interest in weaving. I usually think of weaving as a super precise craft, and thus outside my crafting abilities. But it seems Su Mwamba, who is much more knowledgeable than me on these matters, feels weaving is more free-form than embroidery. A mini-weaving on a bit of card seems perfect for the bus as well. And I’ll have to comment on her blog as well…

On a non-buscraft note, I’ve spent the intercalation doing a lot of embroidery.