Wednesday, 23 April 2014


To find out what all this “wowwing” is about, click on the WOYWW link in my sidebar, which will take you to Julia’s blog where all will be revealed.

Two weeks ago I promised you that some Exciting News was in the offing Chez Shosh. Unfortunately it hadn’t arrived in time for last week’s WOYWW but on Thursday a Very Exciting Parcel arrived…

02 Cover Removed

My beautiful new sewing machine! (For those of you who don’t visit my blog between WOYWW hops, you can read all about it here.)

So far, I haven’t even managed to plug it in, because I have a sudden deadline on a different project, which I really must crack on with – there’s a lot of work involved so I’m afraid my New Baby will have to wait for a while!

To this week’s WOYWW, and I have various things to show you around my ARTHaven. On the first work surface, under the window, I have laid out a large quantity of teabags for final drying off after they’ve been removed from the watercolour paper. They must be fully dry before I an extract the tea and use the bags – if I put them away damp, they will go mouldy. I’ve got the ladies well trained at church now, and I think they are becoming accustomed to the extreme weirdness of their newest member of the congregation! This week I was given a large quantity of teabags, not only from Sunday itself, but rescued from the bin; these latter ones are always covered with coffee grounds and I have to wash them when I get home! For the past couple of days this has been the state of things in my ARTHaven:

37 Lots of Church Teabags Drying

Anyway, back to my desk today – a couple of days ago I had a massive tidy-up and it’s all looking pretty organised now! To the right of the teabags you an see my small laptop, and beside it the iMac, which has now found its way back upstairs. I have been busy working on some videos and at the same time learning Final Cut Pro X, my new video editing software – because I’m on a steep learning curve, everything takes a long time to do!

WOYWW 255a Teabags Drying and Computers

My main work area:

WOYWW 255b Main Work Area - Recycled Mini-Album

On the left, the small grey square thing is the touch pad (mouse replacement) for the iMac. In the centre you can see the new project I’m working on, which is a mini-album made entirely of recycled materials – I have drafted several blog posts about it which I have not yet uploaded because I am still working on the associated videos. The stage I’m at today is covering all the pages with black gesso in readiness for the artwork. Watch this space for progress – one I’ve finished giving the pages their final coat, the exciting stuff should begin!

Moving further around the room to the sewing corner, you can see the new sewing machine sitting in its place of honour, with its over on. In front of it is a small sample piece with teabags pinned to a tea-dyed piece of fabric, waiting to be stitched. To the right, more teabags drying, and an ever-increasing pile of watercolour papers with teabag stains on them.

WOYWW 255c Sewing Area

Mummy’s Little Helper – earlier yesterday afternoon.

Phoebe Using ARTHaven Wheelchair 220-04-14

Phoebe is a good little girl and I’d be happy for her to spend time with me in my ARTHaven, but I have to ban them both because Beatrice is a total pain – she rummages in everything and pulls things out, and as soon as my back is turned (and often not even waiting for that) she’s all over everything, and she’d walk through wet paint given half a chance! She’s the nosiest cat I have ever known.

Final picture for today, taken one day last week – another shot of the two of them with four eagle eyes firmly fixed on my hubby’s supper again – not fish cakes this time, but pizza!

Going After Daddy's Supper 2 - Gravy on Nose 16-4-14

Absolutely no progress to report on the knitting this week – it hasn’t been out of the bag.

Have a great week, everybody, and may your creative mojo never depart!

Regarding my blog posts on the mini-album, these will appear on the correct dates, i.e. the blog posts reflecting the work done on that particular day, so they will appear before this post, chronologically. This is for my own  purposes, so I know when I did what. There will also be a post about creating substrates for the teabags, as soon as I have finished editing that video. It all takes a very long time and I’m getting quite behind with it all!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

My New Sewing Machine!

Last week in my WOYWW post, I promised to reveal some exciting news. Unfortunately it did not come in time to include in this week’s WOYWW, but here it is now – all can be revealed at last! A little while ago you may remember my reporting that to my great disappointment after having set up my sewing machine in its designated corner in my ARTHaven, it failed to work – the feed dogs were down, and remained in the down position. On examination it became clear that the spring on the cam operating the mechanism had broken, so off it went for repair. The engineer, bless his cotton socks, scoured the internet for me in search of the part, but it was not to be found. The machine was simply too old, and all the spare parts had gone.

This machine was a 21st birthday present from my parents – all of us girls in our family (my sister and me, and our two cousins) were given sewing machines for our 21st birthdays and they have proved to be the most amazing present, lasting for many years and giving excellent service, as well as endless creative pleasure. Mine was a Pfaff, of solid German manufacture, and in the almost exactly 40 years that I had it, it only went in for repairs two or three times. Not a bad record!

After such a long life of sterling service, this faithful old workhorse has gone to the place where sewing machines go to die, and I feel very sad about that. It has been my constant companion all my adult life, and for several years earned me a crust or two! With it I made quilts, machine applique, a small amount of embroidery, dolls and soft toys, curtains and more curtains, cushions, bedding, and more clothes than I could shake a fist at, including my own wedding dress and two bridesmaids’ dresses. It has marked many rites of passage in our family, and its passing is the end of an era.

However, time does not stand still, and I need a sewing machine, so I had to find myself a new one. As soon as I heard that my old one had finally died, I immediately informed Mum, since she and Dad had given it to me, and straight away she said, “I would like to buy you a new one for your birthday!” When I picked myself up off the floor, I asked whether she was aware just how much they cost these days, and she said, “It doesn’t matter. It is a pleasure, after all that the two of you have done for me.” So despite the frequent moaning about her circumstances, she really is grateful and appreciative to my hubby and me. I am so grateful to her! She told me to choose what I wanted, and go ahead and order it straight away, and she was willing for me to have it before my birthday and she knew I’d want to get on with things now, and not have to wait another 6 weeks. It’s all very fitting because it’s exactly 40 years on, and also, last year, for my 60th, Mum gave me some money rather than something specific, and this machine is almost like a special 60th birthday present, even if it is a year late!

After much online research, I finally decided on the Brother Inov-is 350SE, a machine that was designed specifically to celebrate Brother’s 50 years in Europe (SE = Special Edition). Not only would this machine do all I wanted and more, it was also one of the nicest looking ones, and I believe aesthetics are important – after all, we have to live with the machine and use it, and if it is ugly, that’s not so much fun! On my old machine I always missed the ability to do more fancy embroidery stitches, and this new machine has them in spades.

The technology has moved on massively in the last 40 years. Computers were not even part of our everyday lives in 1974! This machine is computerised, and has loads of bells and whistles that I am going to have to discover, and learn how to use. The instruction manual is several times the size of the one for my old machine, and there are masses of inexplicable knobs and buttons on the machine which no doubt will all become familiar to me in time! A friend of mine wondered whether this new machine would last as well as the old one, since “they don’t make them like they used to!” I said that if it did, I would still be sewing, aged 101!!! I think it more than likely that either the machine, or I, will have pegged out before then!

One great feature of this machine is that, if purchased now, it comes with the quilting kit free. This is worth about £150 and includes the large table which makes working on larger pieces so much easier, and several feet. Unfortunately it does not include the free motion embroidery/darning foot, which surprises me because a common use for this feature is in quilting, but I have purchased that separately, and our local shop where I ordered the machine is posting it to me. The quilting kit did not come with the machine when it was delivered today, and when I phoned the shop, they said that for some reason this comes separately, by post. I should receive it, together with the embroidery foot, in the next few days. Meantime I think I’ve got enough to be going on with, learning the basic functions of the machine!

Here are some photos. Just out of the box, and not even plugged in yet! (I opened it with Mum, so that she could see it, and share in my excitement. However, she said all this “modern stuff” was quite beyond her, and she wouldn’t know where to begin!)

01 With Cover

This first picture shows the machine in situ in the corner of my ARTHaven, to the right of the display area. It is great having the space to have a sewing machine out all the time, readily accessible at any time, and my ARTHaven was designed with this in mind, to have separate work zones with the curving work surface connecting them all, generating a feeling of continuity in the work, and breaking down the boundaries between different disciplines.

The machine has a strong, light-weight plastic cover to keep the dust off. Unlike my old machine, it just rests on top of the machine and does not lock into place. The machine itself has a handle which folds up, and this projects through the cover, so that when you lift it, you are actually lifting the machine itself and not the cover, which is a lot safer – if the lock on the old-style cover were to break, you’d end up dropping the machine!

The front of the cover has a deep pocket for storing the instruction book and various accessories.

Here is the machine with the cover removed.

02 Cover Removed

I think you will agree that it is very elegant, with some nice curves – many modern machines are very square-looking, and the rounded ones look rather bulbous, in my opinion. This machine has a sleek and stylish appearance.

Where the ruler is on the front, that whole section pulls away, leaving a narrow arm for sewing sleeves etc. Inside the pull-away section is a neat storage box for the accessories – sewing feet, seam ripper, etc. Other accessories such as the screwdrivers and cleaning brush come in a small bag which can be kept in the storage space in the cover.

The machine comes with a rigid plastic chart showing all the available stitches, with clips on the bottom that fit neatly onto the folded-down handle of the machine, for quick reference.

03 Stitch Chart

Take a close look and see how amazing some of the decorative stitches are! The machine will also do a whole selection of different buttonholes.

Lifting the top cover you can see the bobbin winding mechanism, spool holder and threading slots – it’s all unfamiliar to me as yet, but I expect in a short time I shall be threading up like a pro!

04 Top Cover Lifted

Finally, here’s the business end. Unlike my old machine which had the bobbin loading through a door in the front, this one has a neat transparent cover in the top. Threading looks to be very easy – there’s even a mechanism for threading the needle itself! (I wonder if it will also make me a nice cup of tea while I work…)

05 Where it All Happens

Lots to do and lots to learn before I can produce anything meaningful, I am sure! I will let you know how I get on in the meantime. I have one project that I want to make immediately, so watch this space – after which I shall get back to my teabag art and start assembling the bags at last!

Shoshi is One Happy Bunny.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

A Visit to Torre Abbey Gardens

A beautiful day today, and my hubby having some free time in the middle of the day, he took me on an outing to Torre Abbey in Torquay. The beautiful gardens are looking their best in the fine spring weather.

Here are the Abbey ruins from the reception area inside the house.

01 Abbey Ruins

Some bluebells growing by the garden gate. You can see the tropical house beyond.

02 Bluebells and the Tropical House

Along the fence some fruit trees were trained, and I was fascinated by this twisted branch.

03 Twisted Branch

One of Torquay’s most famous daughters, Agatha Christie, is celebrated in the centre of the gardens with the “Potent Plants Garden” full of poisonous plants yielding the deadly toxins so favoured by this writer in her detective novels.

04 Agatha Christie Potent Plants Sign

A corner of the Potent Plants Garden. Around the garden were signs with clues and questions to answer about Agatha Christie’s stories. In which one do the “cockle shells all in a row” appear?

05 Agatha Christie Potent Garden

Another sign in the Potent Plants Garden. I am so glad that the Elf & Safety Brigade haven’t muscled in on this act and demanded that this garden be dug up – it is a lot of fun!

06 Agatha Christie Potent Plants Sign

A mirrored sculpture. I love reflective surfaces, and it is fascinating how the “wing” on the right hand side seems to disappear into the background greenery as it reflects the greenery underneath.

07 Mirrored Sculpture

The house and gardens.

08 The House and Gardens

The gardens with the ruins of the Abbey beyond.

09 Gardens and Ruins

A corner of the garden with trees and spring flowers.

10 Flowers and Trees

One of a network of arbours around a central fountain. My hubby enjoying the sunshine. (Note the patches on his elbows – I’ve never known anyone with such sharp elbows, which go through his sleeves so quickly! Most of his jumpers have these circular crochet patches that I’ve made, picking out the colours of the jumper. They look like targets in a shooting range!)

11 N with Arbour and Fountain

The fountain. Beautiful reflections in the water.

12 Fountain

Finally, another picture of our naughty kitties trying to get a bite of my hubby’s supper – not salmon fish cakes this time, but pizza! If you look carefully, you can see that a couple of hours after their own supper, Phoebe still has some gravy on her nose. I’ve never known a kitty so keen on her food that she literally buries her face in it!

Going After Daddy's Supper 2 - Gravy on Nose 16-4-14

By the time we’d had lunch outside the cafe at the Abbey, and been round the gardens, I was a bit too tired for anything else, so we decided to postpone a tour of the inside of the house till another time. A lovely day all round.


Hop over to Julia’s blog (click on the WOYWW link in my sidebar) to join in the fun and see how messy our work desks are this week!

You find mine just as I was starting to put things away after making the card you can see on the left, inspired by a wonderful design by Helen Allen. I’ve done a post about this where you can see how I made it step by step.


The rest of the stuff consists of bits of card used in the project, some acrylic paints and gel mediums (including the iridescent one which is simply gorgeous), a bottle of Dylusions spray ink, some Distress Inks and a jar of dirty paint water! You can also see the gorgeous little pincushion Lunch Lady Jan made for me when we did an ATC swap with WOYWW a couple of years ago – it’s not used for sewing pins, but pins for unblocking glue bottles, and generally poking holes in things. It lives on my desk close to hand at all times! You can also see my deluxe Bosch hot glue gun, and on the left, the little cream tin bath that had a teddy and some soap in it once – nowadays I use it for bunging odd bits and pieces in, and it’s useful for keeping miscellaneous gubbins in one place.

In case you are wondering where the teabags are this week, there are some stacked up on the far right at the back, underneath a piece of tea-dyed wadding fabric. The others are stashed elsewhere while I was working on the card.

Elsewhere in my ARTHaven this week, I’ve done a bit more dyeing. The first batch I did came out too dark for what I wanted it for, so I mixed up another dye bath with the same colour proportions but this time, half strength. Here is the result – the two skeins at the back are the new colour, and the ball at the front is the old – I can use this in other projects. It’s a gorgeous colour but just not right for my current knitting project, which is more subtle. This chestnut brown is made up of equal quantities of dark brown and red dye, with half the quantity of yellow. Colour mixing is Funnnn……

Chestnut Brown - 2 Shades

Now I have got my stock solutions all made up, it’s a quick and easy process to dye any small quantities I want, of any colour. It’s great having the table right by the sink and microwave.

Speaking of my knitting – I have now started decreasing down the first sleeve, so it shouldn’t be long before the number of stitches becomes appreciably fewer and the work should progress more quickly.

04 Beginning Sleeve Decreasing

Last week I said I might have some exciting news for you this week. Unfortunately it has been delayed but hopefully I’ll be able to share it with you next week! Here’s hoping, anyway.

Have a great week, everybody – full of creativity and fun. Happy WOYWW!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Card Inspired by Helen Allen

My lovely blogging and Youtube buddy, Helen, is in full creative mode at the moment – you could say she’s In the Zone!! Her work is totally inspiring, and this week I decided to try my hand at a card inspired by one of her recent projects, Arty Card Tutorial. Hope you like it, Helen, and thanks yet again for sharing your wonderful creativity with us!

I’m afraid I had some problems with my camera during the making of this project, and some of the photos seem to have come out quite out of focus, for which I apologise – I did not notice at the time – the auto focus seemed to be working OK at the time, and it was only when I came to edit them that I noticed the problem.

Here is all the stuff I got out at the beginning of the project. I didn’t use all of it, and also added in a few things along the way that weren’t in the picture.

01 Materials and Equipment

Helen worked her two examples on plain card, but I decided I wanted a bit of a background to work on first, so I took some A5 white card and cut it down by an inch on one long and one short side, and shooshed it into some Milled Lavender and Dusty Concord Distress Inks spritzed with water on my non-stick craft sheet. The Milled Lavender proved too pale so I didn’t bother to use any more of it during the project. I added a small amount of Spiced Marmalade with an Inkylicious Ink Duster.

02 Smooshed Background

The offcuts from this piece of card I smooshed with Spiced Marmalade Distress Ink, and mopped up the rest with another piece of card which will eventually form a background for another project. The strips would be used later in this project.

03 Smooshed Strips and Extra Background

Now came the fun part – making ink splats! I love doing this. Distress Stains come in a bottle with a fabric applicator and if you strike this firmly down onto some card, it makes a fabulous Splat! Pow! Zap!! Good for working off one’s aggressions. In this case I used Picked Raspberry and Seedless Preserves Distress Stains, the lighter and darker splats respectively.

04 Distress Stain Splats

I then took some sequin waste and used this as a stencil, pouncing acrylic paint with a foam applicator – I made a mixture of Permanent Magenta and Ultramarine to produce a dark rich purple colour. However, I felt that this was a bit too strong, so I made a wash with Titanium White acrylic paint and toned it down a little.

05 Sequin Waste Stencilling with Acrylic Paints

Following Helen’s instructions, I took my bottle of Pure Sunshine Dylusions spray ink, and unscrewed the top. I pulled the tube out of the spray bottle and used this to “scratch” some ink onto the card, parallel to, and at right angles to the design. This is a great technique.

06 Scratching with Dylusions Ink Spray Tube

After this I took some of the purple mix acrylic paint and spattered some of it over the card, concentrating on the design part but also adding some spatters to the background.

07 Paint Spatters

I chose a script background stamp to add a bit of texture to the background.

08 Background Script Stamp

Using the rubber stamp without an acrylic block, I applied some of the acrylic paint to part of it and gently laid it down repeatedly over the design, not always applying more paint between each application, so that some of the impressions came out fainter.

09 Background Script Stamping with Acrylics

I then mixed up a small quantity of Vermilion and Cadmium Yellow acrylic paints and stamped this onto the design using a pen cap.

10 Stamping with Pen Lid and Acrylic Paint

Returning to my offcut strips, I added some Dusty Concord Distress Ink. Some of this would be used as the background for the sentiment.

11 Smooshed Strips for Sentiment

Stamping the sentiment. This is a “Happy Birthday” clear stamp that I have had since I started several years ago, and I have no idea what make it is, or where I got it.

12 Stamping the Sentiment

I matted the sentiment strip onto a strip of purple cardstock and rounded the corners using my corner-rounder punch.

13 Sentiment Matted and Layered

I rounded the corners of the main card piece, and then cut narrow strips of patterned card – odd scraps I have had for ages – you can see them in the first photo. I cut the ends obliquely and stuck them down with soft matt gel medium, and trimmed off the excess around the edges of the card.

14 Narrow Strips of Card Attached

Using an old credit card dipped into Titanium White acrylic paint, I added the white lines across the design. This is an exciting touch that Helen added to her cards, which really lifts the design.

15 White Acrylic Lines Applied with Credit Card

At this stage, I added some more scratched lines with the Dylusions ink, as the original ones had been somewhat obscured by subsequent layers. After this, I painted on some iridescent gel medium randomly, mostly on the background but a little on the design, which really makes the surface of this card shimmer. This is gorgeous stuff, and can either be painted on direct, as I have done here, or mixed with acrylic paint in any colour and then applied. It has a lovely silky finish.

16 Iridescent Gel Medium

The card base was formed from a sheet of heavy white A4 card which looked a bit stark against the card, so I inked the edges with Spiced Marmalade Distress Ink which toned it down nicely and made it co-ordinate with the design. I also inked the inside in the same way, adding some Dusty Concord in the centre part.

17 Inked Card Base and Matting and Layering

I matted and layered the card topper onto some gold mirror card and the same purple cardstock that I used for the sentiment.

I took some rayon seam binding and smooshed it around in some Dusty Concord Distress Ink spritzed with water on my non-stick craft sheet. I kept screwing it up and then applied some ink direct from the pad, to give a nice uneven colour, continuing to spritz and screw it up until I was pleased with the result.

18 Inking the Ribbon

I added a small amount of the Spiced Marmalade Distress Ink, using an Inkylicious Ink Duster.

I tied a shabby chic style bow using three lengths of this ribbon and fixed it in place with hot glue, before highlighting it with some gold gilding wax applied with my finger.

19 Gilding the Ribbon

The sentiment attached to the card topper.

20 Sentiment Attached

A set of decorative brads that I’ve had in my stash for several years – I chose one with a purple and yellow colour scheme.

21 Decorative Brads

I cut off the fasteners from the back of the brad and attached it to the centre of the bow using hot glue, and then used more hot glue to attach the bow to the card.

22 Ribbon Attached

The final step was to attach the card topper to the base card, which I did using quite a large quantity of double sided tape glue from my ATG – the card topper was a bit wrinkly from all that had been done to it, and it is now nice and flat. I rounded the corners of the card base, and here it is.

23 Finished Card

Thank you, Helen, for an inspiring design! I think there is a lot of potential in this technique – as Helen says, it is reminiscent of art journal pages with the building up of the layers.

P.S. Can you spot the deliberate mistake? A real “duh” moment!!