30 January 2008

Nocturne in blue and gold

Does it remind you of Whistler's picture of a bridge across the Thames? That was Battersea Bridge, somewhat upstream of the Millennium Bridge.

A foggy dusk falling in London town, seen from the 6th floor of Tate Modern: This past xmas saw lots of blue lights in trees around town, looking intriguingly like beaded chiffon dresses -
But xmas is long past, and now I'm going to be away from London for a while, though hopefully not far from a computer and lots of picture-taking opportunities. Might even have a chance to take a stitch or two -- the Mesopotamian Bowl is coming along for the ride.

26 January 2008

Friday late

... at the V&A. At the centre of the evening was the Spectacular Craft exhibition. Other activities included a dancers on an intricately-patterned icing sugar floor -- which rose in clouds, like mist; a recreation of Modern Times by a Charlie Chaplin impersonator; casting body parts (noses, fingers) in chocolate -- long queues for that!; and this chance to play with graphic design --
under the stony eyes of 18th century notables -
On the way to the cafeteria, this golden castle - something inspirational for another time -
and in the shop (no museum visit is complete without a visit to the museum shop!) a selection of handbags made from suit jackets - the lining is gorgeous, two kinds of silk; and look at that price tag: £115.

The work of moments

Dijanne's post on Xenobia sent me looking in a book of near-eastern art and while flipping through I saw this 9th century bowl from Mesopotamia -and thought "if I had all day, I'd use this as a starting point..." -- and then thought "I don't have all day but I do have 30 minutes!"

So, off to the sewing room, pull fabrics, and get going cutting - first in separate "leaves" and then trying to get the entire palmette out of one shape. The way you paint on pottery and the way you cut out of fabric are Very Different Things!
This certainly won't look like a bowl when it's done -
That'll do for palmettes, let's get on with the central bit.
"Translating" the writing was tricky, but I was running out of time, so this will have to do. It can be rethought and reworked - or rather, changed by adding "something" - later.

And "something" is needed in the bottom corner - these are the fabrics that came to hand first. I left this to percolate in the subconsious during the work day.
Next steps - that corner; raw edge applique; some handstitch in the central section; the quilting of course; binding. That'll certainly take more than half an hour, but sometimes the hard part is actually getting started.

Gluestick is great for working fast like this.

25 January 2008

New bird on the block

The block is 8" square and the bird is by embroiderer Heidi Turner. The base fabric, which wraps round the deep stretchers, is printed and seamed and painted, and stitched under the paint; and handstitched, and beaded, and sequinned -- I'm still seeing new things every time I lift it off the wall and into the light.

Here it is, lower left - with the red dot, in Heidi's display at the annual show of the Society of Designer Craftsmen:

You can see more of her award-winning work here; by clicking on those pix you'll get a good close-up of the telling details.

21 January 2008

Bond street, after hours

Jewellery shops are closed, their window displays stripped
and jewels in safe keeping
but elsewhere the windows are full of glitz
and desirable objects
displays andfacades and
round the corner, shoppers on the way home along Oxford Street

19 January 2008


Think of an abstract concept - and put that word into Google images. Recently I tried "posture"; today for no particular reason (no reason, that is, apart from avoiding getting on with some urgent work) I tried "humour" - and landed on a chemistry site, which had this useful chart:

and, next, on someone's dissertation, which starts: "The following exploration follows from a concern that modern civilization is boring itself to death trying to manage change -- and compensating for its inadequacies with respect to the challenge by indulgence in distractions and substance abuse. There is a need for radical reframing -- of a playful nature. Essentially the argument is that "no play equals no engagement" -- at least of any sustainable form."

As you can see from the chart (click on it to enlarge), it gets serious:
Don't know where this blogger found this note, but it kinda makes sense:

Bags of fun

These velvet cosmetic bags are fun - and fairly quick - to make. (Warning: they are also addictive!) The pattern for the smaller one is here; after a bit of measuring, extrapolation, and guessing, a pattern for the larger one resulted. The zip pull is a couple of scraps of velvet machined together, then trimmed close to the stitching, then closely overcast with embroidery floss (next time I'll use buttonhole stitch). Next time, I'll use some wadding in the larger one, and cut the lining a bit smaller.
With this one, the only suitable zip on hand was a bit short, so I added a strip across the bottom end. Despite the photo, it's a richly purple velvet and has a lining of tie silk - little leaping hounds and rabbits. A few hand stitches holding the lining and bag seams together at the top make a difference. This zip pull is velvet ribbon knotted through the small hole in the zip and then satin ribbon handsewn to the inside, to make a bit of colour when the bag is closed.

18 January 2008

Colour decision

The main colour is sage, the ribbing is darkish grey -- and for that stripe that adds the zing to this man's cardigan, the choice is between the tweedy green (is there enough?), the reddish brown (4ply, use double), or the expensive new wool.

Plan A is to knit all the ribbing - fronts, back, sleeves - and see if there's enough of the dark green tweedy stuff.

The pattern is in Classic Knits for Men - many enticing things to choose from. I used to make up my own patterns without a second thought, especially combinations of cables, but now it's great to have it all written down already, even the amount of wool needed -- though that often means there's 1 3/4 balls left over.

16 January 2008

Knitted blood??

This hit my inbox along with some even grislier "extreme knitting" - lots of knitted "blood" oozing from unfortunate wounds, that sort of thing -
It brought to mind the subversive garments knit by Freddie Robins, like these gloves inspired by Struwwelpeter - the story of the boy who sucked his thumb until the scissors-man came and cut it off.
You can get the pattern for these on the V&A's website, which also has other knitting information. (Or, use red mohair to darn the holes in your existing gloves.)

12 January 2008

Purely doing

"When you do an action how pure is that action? Do you just get on with it or are there all sorts of additional intentions which make the action more complicated than it needs to be?" asks business coach Mark Forster in his latest newsletter and on his blog. I had to read to the end of the post before the penny dropped: sometimes the reason it's hard to start -- or get on with -- a project is that we load it with so many other agendas and expectations that we get paralysed at the thought of failing in any or all of them.

A clear, simple goal is needed: just to DO it, not to worry about whether it will be the best ever, whether Teacher will like it, whether it will impress your friends. Get drawing, painting, sewing; carry on, finish. Enjoy the process, let the outcome take care of itself. Focus on the doing.

Hmm, what sort of picture shall we use for this? Water calligraphy?
... or, going with the flow?

11 January 2008


Paul Poiret, French fashion designer, is not to be confused with Hercule Poirot, fictional Belgian detective. There is no comparison! Poiret is one of my fashion heroes, along with Madeleine Vionnet. They stepped outside the bounds of couture and took it to a new level - not least by Poiret liberating women from constricting undergarments.

Mere hours after reading a review of the book accompanying the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Poiret show, I came across it in Samuel French's theatre bookshop on Warren Street -- not somewhere I usually go. So this was a minor manifestation of Destiny, obviously. (I'm sure I read the review in the Jan/Feb issue of Fiberarts, but it seems to have disappeared from the pages of that magazine...)
My favourite item in the book is this 1912 "duster" coat, used to protect clothes when driving along unpaved roads in open cars, based on a traditional desert garment, the abaya. Conflation of Western elements and non-Western dress is a strategy that Poiret used throughout his career, the book says.
Clothes by Oska, a company based in Germany, have this kind of draped, asymmetrical styling.

09 January 2008

Bed of roses

Came across these brooches I was making at this time last year. The pattern is one that evolved, based on groups of single, double, treble, double, single crochets to make the "petals", done in a spiral. Beads and cords were added in the centres, and a safety pin sewn to the back. Some of these are obviously unfinished - if anyone wants one, as seen (thread tails and all!), email me on mcooter(at)bmj(dot)com and I'll pop it in the post to you.

If you want to make one, this pattern is similar. Watch out, it's addictive!

03 January 2008

A word in your year

New year's resolutions don't have to start right on 1 January, do they? Any day is the start of a new year...  This post suggests choosing just one word for the year, and offers you a list if a word doesn't immediately fly into your mind. My word is "posture" - less of this -and more of this -
As for art goals -- my art goal for 2008 is just to keep going, keep trying ... and if it works, do it some more!

02 January 2008

Ben's prints

The recent show of Ben Nicholson's prints included several of the his copper plates, in irregular shapes - here they are below the prints, luring you into the Alan Cristea gallery on Cork Street.Most surprising thing in the show was the blocks for his linocut Princess -- they were done on lineoleum used on floors:One of my favourites is Number, a linocut printed on cloth:Small etchings were priced from £3000. Fortunately they are also accessible in catalogues and books! Here are a couple of Italian scenes:Their mysterious quality belies their simplicity - and complexity. Many years ago I tried to copy one in black stitched lines on white fabric - it didn't turn out well. Now, it would be good to be in a clear space, thinking about these, and seeing what would come out of that. A project for "later".