Monday, 26 January 2015

Shi-Sha Embroidery with Fly Stitch

Continuing my exploration into variations on the basic shi-sha stitch, I found a very pretty variation, which combines the basic shi-sha stitch with fly stitch, which is a bit like an open-ended detached chain stitch. After completing the stitches all round the shi-sha mirror, the overlapping fly stitches are whipped with a contrasting thread – I used double thickness to make it stand out a bit better.

This is a very pretty effect! For my first piece, I used one of my extra-large shi-sha mirrors, that measures about an inch across. Some of this is covered by the stitches holding it in place, of course.

15 Large Shi-sha with Whipped Fly Stitch

I didn’t actually do the middle quite right, and had to fudge it a bit, which makes it a bit messy. Just to make sure the mirror didn’t drop out, I added an extra row of stitching inside the “setting” – a row of detached buttonhole stitch in the red lurex thread (the sparkliness doesn’t show up on the photo, of course). I used the same thread for the inner outline of the motif. I also added a detached chain stitch on the point of each fly stitch. This single, large shi-sha mirror makes a lovely focal point to the design, I think.

Here are a couple of detail shots.

16 Large Shi-sha with Whipped Fly Stitch Detail

17 Large Shi-sha with Whipped Fly Stitch Ultra Detail

The green and red centre, covering the edge of the shi-sha, is actually more raised than shows in the photo. The whipping over the fly stitches is done with double thickness yellow thread, and I have used the same thread for the detached chain stitches around the edge.

I decided to do another one, this time getting the stitch correct, and adding an extra dimension by making it asymmetrical. This worked very well, and when I added the contrasting whipping, I added extra rows over the longer fly stitches.

18 Asymmetrical Whipped Fly Stitch

Again, a couple of detail shots.

19 Asymmetrical Whipped Fly Stitch Detail

20 Asymmetrical Whipped Fly Stitch Ultra Detail

In this second one, I added some French knots and other embellishments in my turquoise lurex thread. On the three circles below the main motif, in reality there is a lot more contrast between the centre and the edging but this doesn’t show because the camera won’t pick up the sparkle of the lurex thread. I also added a stitch in the centre of each of the larger overlapping fly stitches, using the same thread, to draw the design together.

Like with my recycled mini-album, this project is a learning curve and I am developing my skills as I do it! I love learning new things. I am very pleased to have found this website which has some brilliant tutorials on different embroidery stitches.

I am finding this embroidery project very therapeutic. Like Zentangle, there is a certain rhythm to embroidery, which is very absorbing and calming, and time seems to stand still! I am enjoying this particular project very much at the moment, because I am feeling pretty unsettled after hearing the news that I have cancer, and I am finding it impossible to settle to anything in my studio. Each of these motifs which make up a much larger whole, are like individual small projects and each one can be completed in a few hours. I am averaging about one per day, with the applique ground work having been done several years ago. I am working on them in the sitting room on the recliner, spreading my materials out on my small work table which lives in front of me. My creative mojo hasn’t exactly departed, I realise – it’s merely changed direction a bit.

I have updated my Cancer Diary page today.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

A New Shi-Sha Stitch

I have been doing shi-sha (Indian mirror) work for many years, and have always done the regular shi-sha stitch which alternates between buttonhole stitches worked very close together, and chain stitches which run around parallel to the edge of the mirror. This is what I did in this example.

09 Detail 2

You can see the basic shi-sha stitch worked in turquoise in the above photo – I added another two rows of chain stitch around this in yellow afterwards.

After so many years of always doing it this way and never varying it, last night I discovered a variation! This is very exciting.

Instead of working the chain stitch parallel to the edge of the mirror, you work it at right angles, inserting the needle some distance away from the mirror and coming up next to it, and as you work around the mirror, you arrange these vertical stitches so that they radiate outwards. This gives a great effect like sunrays!

This is what I did last night, and I think so far, it’s one of my favourite pieces for the bed decorations I am making.

13 Yellow and Purple Piece

Here’s a detail of the shi-sha work, done in yellow.

14 Yellow and Purple Piece Detail

I really like this effect! I am exploring shi-sha stitch further, and have found several other variations, which I shall be experimenting with in due course.

In this latest piece, the light-coloured thread which outlines the central motif, and creates the cross-shape, is actually gold lurex thread. I wish you could see how sparkly and bright it is. At least in this photo, you can see the little mirrors a bit better. As usual, I have added some French knots, and used chain stitch as a filler (I’ve never been able to do satin stitch – it always looks a total mess), and added four detached chain stitches in the very centre.

I am trying to source small glass shi-sha mirrors to buy in bulk. I’ve still got quite a lot (can’t remember where I bought them) but most suppliers only sell them in bags of 10 or so, working out at about 10p each, which is more than I want to spend. I’d like to buy bags of 100 or 500 but haven’t yet found any on the Internet, even from India. I would like to make a curtain to hang against the wall under the half-tester above the bed, and cover this with mirrors. Curtains covered with shi-sha work wink and sparkle with the movement of the curtain. It’s a fabulous rich effect.

Sometime I must dig out the bridesmaid’s cap I made, which is covered all over with shi-sha work, done in a variety of bright colours, and photograph it. These caps were quite heavy with all the glass mirrors.

Friday, 23 January 2015

New Stash from Range

Yesterday my hubby took me for a little outing to stop me going stir crazy indoors. It was a very cold, raw sort of day so we didn’t get out of the car when he took me to see the sea. I love the sea in wintertime – the colours are so subtle and there aren’t many people about. I didn’t take any photos because we didn’t get out of the car, but it was very dramatic, seeing the amazing red cliff where it has fallen down into the sea in last winter’s terrible storms. That particular little beach is now closed because it’s not safe. In another place we go, a house has fallen down. And we think we’ve got problems…

After this, he said would I like to go to Range. He’s been telling me about Range for ages. I’d never heard of it before (I know… I should get out more!) saying they’ve got a really good art department.

For those who don’t know, Range is a huge shop that sells everything for the home and more besides. I was delighted with the aisles of crafting supplies, and decided to pick up a few bits and pieces. Inevitably, after about 10 minutes of this my hubby started saying, “Are you ready yet?” “Have you finished?” and “Shall we go home now?” Lol!

Here’s the stash I bought.

Stash from Range Jan 15

On the left, a 2015 diary (at last) – I’ve been writing stuff down on a list so far this year! Next to it, a multi-pack of double-sided foam tape and lots of foam squares. Then a tiny alphabet stamp set (we can always do with more alphabets) and on the right, a nice big pack of natural coloured raffia. I love this for wrapping my soaps, and it will be useful for cards and mixed media stuff too. At the top, 3 rolls of ultra-sticky double sided tape. For weeks now I’ve had an empty one on my table in the sitting room to remind me to order some more!

Range has lots of Dovecraft, Papermania and Crafters’ Companion things, as well as plenty of other makes. Loads of scrapbooking stuff, embellishments, papers, punches, embossing folders, glues… you name it. I shall definitely want to go there again!

We also discovered, in the home section, a lovely art deco mirror for our sitting room. Since we moved here I’ve been thinking of getting one. We’ve got a genuine art deco fireplace in beautiful polished wood which is an original feature of the house, where I have given my genuine art deco electric clock centre stage, and our repro art deco lamp a prominent position. The new mirror is perfect! My hubby hung it last night and before I went to bed I polished off the finger marks with vinegar. Sparkling.

New Mirror for Sitting Room

These little outings mean all the world to me. Just having a bit of quality time with my hubby out of the house on our own, and visiting some of the beautiful scenery within striking distance of home, and having the opportunity to do some shopping (definitely retail therapy!).

Here’s the embroidered piece for the bed that I completed last night.

12 Purple Piece

Health Update

This morning in the post, I received my appointment for the CT scan, which is next Friday afternoon. Please see the “My Cancer Diary” page for details. The juggernaut has begun to roll.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015


For details of how to join in, please click on the WOYWW logo in my sidebar, which will take you to our hostess Julia’s blog, where all will be revealed.

My first WOYWW of 2015! Sorry not to have been around, but despite my hopes to the contrary, 2015 has kicked off with a whole raft of problems, starting with difficulties with my very elderly mum, and there’s been a lot of stress in the house. My hubby has managed to set up a care package for her now, and we have a team of simply wonderful carers coming in each morning to help her get up, and they are such a great support to us, too. We have had the doctor and the district nurse, and at last the pressure is somewhat off, but in his own wonderful way of trying to shield me from stress, my hubby has taken on much more of the caring role, and now that Mum is more vulnerable, is finding it hard to find sufficient time away from home to enjoy his own pursuits.

As if we haven’t had quite enough going on over the past year, to cap it all, I had my regular two-yearly colonoscopy yesterday (part of the management of my ulcerative colitis) and we were presented with the devastating news that it is almost definite that I have bowel cancer. They have sent the biopsies they took during the examination for pathological analysis, and ordered a CT scan to take place in the next fortnight, and these tests will confirm by science what they know to be true by experience.

I have written a full blog post about this, giving all the details, so I won’t repeat it all again here.

I feel very, very sorry for my wonderful hubby. He could do without this extra burden – will he never be able fully to enjoy his retirement after so many years of hard work in the service of others? He has been thrown willy-nilly into a full-time carer’s role and it seems so unfair – especially after this latest news.

However, no point moaning – together we have to face this, and get through all the various things they throw at us, and I am determined to be a Good Girl and do as I am told, and take all the treatments and examinations and surgeries they deem necessary, and above all to try not to get ratty and difficult with my hubby when the going gets tough – he has enough of that from Mum!! I pray for a thankful heart at all times.

As a result of all this, my mojo has taken a bit of a bashing. Here is my desk this week.

WOYWW 294 21 Jan

Nothing very exciting on it, is there! You can see the alcohol ink and embossed backgrounds I made a while ago, ready to make into cards for my stash (still not made up) and a doyley and some paper napkins ready to be put away, and the rest is general detritus and my usual regular-use inks and other materials. I simply must organise a better system for the heaps of partially used pieces of kitchen paper on the left (mostly just out of shot – I wouldn’t inflict it on you!) – it’s a horrible mess that irritates me every time I work in there!

Just so you don’t feel totally deprived, I have managed to do a bit more on my embroidered pieces for the bed decorations, which I’ve already posted about, but here’s an example:

09 Detail 2

Hopefully I’ll feel like working on these a bit more this week.

I have also acquired some more RUBs (Really Useful Boxes) and have been having fun doing some reorganisation of storage in my ARTHaven. It’s a great improvement on the messy piles of workshop tools, where I’d never be able to find anything.

01 9L and 9L XL Under Window

Not too much time or inclination to be in my ARTHaven over the past few days. Over the weekend I was going through the dreadful preparation for the colonoscopy, and I have been very busy on the computer since yesterday afternoon, contacting various people to tell them my news, and filling in my various forum friends. I am overwhelmed by the amazing and wonderful support I am already receiving from so many lovely friends around the world.

With your prayers and support, I am sure my hubby and I will beat this. Today I am in fighting mood, but am realistic enough to know that this won’t necessarily last. I have decided to clamp down on my imagination to prevent it running riot and leading me into worst-case-scenario situations – that way leads to despair, and that is NOT Shoshi’s way!!

I have been in contact with our own wonderful Shaz, and she agrees that it will help me a lot, as it has helped her on her ongoing journey, to create a diary of my experiences, not just to help others going through the same thing, but also to help keep my own thoughts in order, and keep abreast of the various events which will take place. With my M.E. brainfog, this is a very good idea because I’m quite likely to get totally confused by it all! I have therefore begun a new page (see tabs along the top of my blog) entitled “My Cancer Diary.”

Today my hubby took me out for lunch, as a special treat after my colonoscopy, planned in advance. To see where we went, have a look at this blog post from the summer, when we went with friends, and I took loads of photos – it’s such a fascinating, quirky old place, full of intriguing things, with fine old beams and crooked walls. We had a lovely meal – a real treat, especially as I haven’t been out of the house properly for several weeks, except to visit the hospital.

Have a great week, everybody, and may our mojos never die or go on holiday.

Monday, 19 January 2015

The Result of my Colonoscopy

This morning I went in for my colonoscopy. I had my first one in August 2013, as a result of a call-back from a positive test result on my first bowel cancer screening test – this is a test undergone by everyone in the UK when they reach the age of 60, and at regular intervals thereafter. My first one revealed blood in the stool, which totally freaked me out, and I was told I had to have a colonoscopy so that they could establish the cause.

What they discovered was that the whole of my large bowel was affected by ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease. Many years ago I had suffered from IBS, which cleared up when I moved to get married, but which returned with the onset of M.E. (or so I thought) – the condition is very common with M.E. and I simply treated it with Immodium and tried to get on with my life. I was suffering from chronic diarrhoea, with on average 10 visits to the loo daily, and while this was unpleasant, I managed it the best I could.

After my colonoscopy, I began seeing a gastro-enterologist regularly at the hospital, and was put on colitis medication (Pentasa), and told that I would have to have a colonoscopy every two years, not just to check on the state of my colitis and how well the medication was working, but also to check for bowel cancer which is more common in sufferers from inflammatory bowel disease.

This regular colonoscopy came due today, and as usual I had to go through the dreaded bowel preparation over several days, with two days of low fibre diet, followed by a day of clear fluids only, and the taking of powerful laxatives to clear the bowel, resulting in visits to the loo every 10 or 15 minutes, and a very sore bottom, despite gentle hypoallergenic moist toilet paper and Vaseline (petroleum jelly)! Yesterday was a very exhausting day and I alternately drank lots, watched DVDs, ran to the loo, and slept, spending the day in bed, a few steps from the en-suite bathroom.

My appointment was at 10.45 this morning and I went in early as they were running ahead of schedule. I was soon under sedation and not too aware of what was going on. It did take me a while to wake properly, and they kept trying, and giving me oxygen, and taking my blood pressure. Eventually I was fit enough to get dressed, and was taken into a room and offered sandwiches and tea – quite delicious, and making me feel quickly a lot more human!

My hubby came back to collect me, and we were taken to another room where a specialist nurse came in to discuss what they had found during the procedure.

As a result of taking the medication for 18 months, the areas of inflammation have been significantly reduced, now to only one area, with the rest of the bowel looking normal. This is an ongoing, lifetime treatment which does not cure the disease, but treats the symptoms. This is a good result.

However, the main news was not good. They found a patch that they didn’t like the look of at all, which was causing some constriction in the bowel, and a bit further round, a polyp. Normally they remove polyps during the procedure (they can be pre-cancerous) but because of the problem area, they left it alone for now. They want me to go back for a CT scan, and in the meantime they will be sending the biopsies they took to the lab for analysis. Also, I have to see an anaesthetist to assess my fitness for surgery – this is usually done in the form of a cardiac stress test on a treadmill or exercise bike, but in view of my M.E. this is not feasible, but no doubt he will think of some way of testing me!

I asked if it was possible that the tumour was benign, but the nurse would not answer in the affirmative. She would only repeat that they didn’t like the look of it. They have seen many, and know from the initial appearance what they are likely to be, and further tests are performed to confirm this initial suspicion, so I think it is pretty well certain to be malignant. She wouldn’t have said as much as she did had they not been pretty certain, and she said as much as she could under the circumstances, with sensitivity and honesty.

I asked her about my chronic mild anaemia, which I had always put down to bleeding from the bowel as a result of my colitis. She said that anaemia can be a symptom of bowel cancer.

I have certain things in my favour. One is the location of the problem area. The nurse said that this was the best position for it, because the affected section could most likely be removed, and the cut ends sewn together, without the need for a colostomy. Secondly, it may well be possible to remove it with keyhole surgery, which is a lot less traumatic and would involve a much shorter stay in hospital. Early diagnosis is also in my favour, of course, and it is likely that they will be able to remove it and I shall be fine. Only after the results of the forthcoming tests will they be able to decide on what treatment regimen will be necessary, and they will discuss this with us when the time comes.

Knowing all these positive things in my favour is a great help, of course, but this news is nonetheless a great shock. I need time to process it. I don’t know why one tends to think one is immune to such things, thinking it’s something other people get, but not me… we know that cancer is a very common disease and is no respecter of persons, so why should I be especially favoured and not get it? I think of all the people I know who live happy, prosperous and healthy lives and never have anything wrong with them, and here’s me with all these health problems, and putting up with Mum as well and it seems so unfair… But I am NOT going down that road, because everybody knows that at the average Pity Party there is only one guest – yourself!! I do feel very sorry for my poor darling hubby though – he’s had so much on his plate this past year, and this seems to be adding insult to injury, and I am the last person to want to add to his burdens. The poor man has only just retired, and has had hardly any opportunity to enjoy his new status, and now this…

I will keep you up to date with developments.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Decorations for Half-Tester, New RUBs and a Health Update

I haven’t been blogging much lately because we’ve had major problems at home with Mum and I’ve had a bit of a reaction and felt very poorly, and the stress has made my creative mojo take a walk! However, I’m feeling a bit better now, and now I’ve started the embroidery on my bed decoration pieces, this is something I can do while in the sitting room, and I am making slow but steady progress, and really enjoying it.


I have completed the embroidery on a few more pieces – one or two I had worked on before, but felt they needed a bit more, and some starting from scratch on the machine applique. Here are the four latest pieces:

07 Four Pieces with Completed Embroidery

and here are the detail shots of each one.

08 Detail 1

I added a lot of French knots on this one! Love the bobbly texture.

09 Detail 2

10 Detail 3

11 Detail 4

It’s very disappointing how photos never show up sparkly stuff – the metallic threads look quite lost in these photos, looking more like raffia! The top one has red and gold lurex thread, the second two gold, and the bottom one has copper. The little shi-sha mirrors don’t show up that well, either, but they really twinkle in the light.

If you look closely at them, you can see that the shi-sha stitch encases the edge of the little mirror, like the setting of a cabachon jewel. The stitch is a variation of chain stitch with two parts to it – you stitch alternately around the four-sided scaffold you work initially to hold the mirror in place, and into the background fabric. I love doing this stitch. You can use it to attach other things too, and I’ve done experimental pieces in the past, attaching shells and flat pebbles. I’ll have to dig out the piece sometime and photograph it, because I don’t seem to have any photos. I did a talk on shi-sha at the embroidery group I used to belong to in Plymouth and this was one of my demo pieces. I also made this purple bodice with a mount-board frame as an example:

Dress Bodice

Dress Bodice Detail

Here is a little box I made, using the technique. To open the box, you squeeze the ends together. There is a shi-sha mirror on each of the three sides.

Embroidered Pinch Box 1

Looking back at this work, it makes me think I really should be getting back into embroidery again – I love it!!

Hopefully I’ll have some more photos of the bed decorations to show you soon. I’ve got a lot of work to do before I can start making them up, and then I shall make tassels to go on the end of each one – something I am really looking forward to doing, and I am already collecting images on Pinterest for my inspiration.

ARTHaven Organisation – RUBs

I have started adding to my existing collection of Really Useful Boxes (RUBs) again. Eventually nearly everything in my ARTHaven will be stored in these, and I am also collecting them for the shelves under the counter in my en-suite bathroom. I am delighted that after doing a lot of research and endless measuring and comparing, I have discovered that there are boxes that fit exactly in the various spaces I have! The effect is so much tidier than my endless scruffy cardboard boxes; they also keep the stuff better, and you can see through the box to see what’s in it. They have a nice uniformity of appearance whatever their size, and are starting to make my ARTHaven look really good! As the pennies allow, I shall add more in time.

On the RUB website, the prices are quite reasonable, but you have to pay postage if your order is less than £500 (and I certainly can’t afford to pay £500 all at once for boxes!). I have discovered a lot on Ebay, and you can sometimes buy multiple packs (2, 3, 5, 10 etc.) of a particular size, and many of them have free postage. Even when the price per individual box is a bit more than on the RUB website, in the long run it saves money because the postage on the RUB website bumps the price of each box up quite a lot, and also, you don’t have to buy a whole lot at once, and there are some good deals to be found.

In this photo of the floor units under the window, you can see I’ve supplemented my 9-litre collection, and also got some of the 9-litre XL boxes, which have tall lids. These are very good for storing bottles and jars, and anything that sticks up above the top edge of the box. The capacity of the box itself is the same as the regular box. The shelves in the floor units are just right for both these sizes. On the left, this large pull-out unit on casters had been a complete mess since we moved, full of a mixture of Dad’s old workshop tools, some of my tools, brackets and fixings, and my decorating stuff. This has now gone into the RUBs and once I manage to spend some time organising the contents properly, I should be able to lay my hands on what I want with ease.

01 9L and 9L XL Under Window

I love how the blue handles clip in place, locking the lids.

Moving over to the storage area on the other side of the room, I have the free-standing cabinet that the previous owner of the house left in my bathroom. I am delighted that each of the open shelves in the centre exactly accommodates one 19-litre RUB. I had a couple of these, and have now completed the set.

02 Completing Set of 19L in Bathroom Storage Unit

Unfortunately, because the doors occupy some space, I cannot get them in the cupboards, but that doesn’t matter because when closed, the contents don’t show anyway. The cupboards are full of fabrics, picture frames and Ikea mirrors for altering, amongst other things.

On the wall opposite the window is the large wall unit, and in this picture you can see the progress I am making. On the left, the shelves are filled with plastic containers that I got years ago from our local supermarket – they had contained things like coleslaw for the deli counter, and I asked them to save them for me, and some of them had margarine in them – I used to buy large quantities for baking, and saved all the boxes which have been incredibly useful over the years – in their first incarnation they were kitchen storage boxes, and like many of my kitchen things, eventually found their home in my ARTHaven! These containers will remain, and not be replaced by RUBs. They contain haberdashery. The centre shelves now house two 9-litre RUBs end-to-end, and one of several of the long 22-litre boxes I have, which are useful for storing rolls of paper. Not all the RUBs stack with each other, but I have found that I can stack two 9-litre boxes end to end on top of a 22-litre box. The contents won’t necessarily stay as they are – the whole thing is still in a state of flux.

03 Progress on Large Wall Unit

I am so looking forward to replacing the untidy cardboard boxes! I shall be getting some 25-litre boxes to go on top of this wall unit, and on top of my mixed media wall unit over the other side of the room as well. The shelves on the right of the large wall unit will continue to be used for drawing stuff (my Zentangle stuff is there) and I shall keep the pretty box on the top shelf, which houses my metallic embroidery threads and embroidery sequins and beads. It all just needs tidying up and organising a bit better.

The bottom shelf in the middle at the moment holds all my soap making stuff. The brown plastic box on the left has essential oils and other liquids for soap, beauty and cleaning products I am going to make. The rest of the soap stuff will go in RUBs once I get them.

Once I get the large black shelf unit in the storage area better organised, I will show you photos of that. I am very thrilled that this unit, which is all that remains of a much larger unit which came out of a shop that was closing down, is exactly the right size for some under-bed storage boxes I had (not RUBs), and also accommodate the 22-litre RUBs end-wise, and the 9-litre and 19-litre boxes.

Health Update (Not TMI, I hope!! No need for the more squeamish among you to read on…)

I am now in the throes of preparation for my regular two-yearly colonoscopy which is taking place on Monday morning. On Wednesday I stopped taking my colitis medication and also my iron, and yesterday was the first day of the special low-fibre diet you have to go on. Today is the second day. During these two days I am not allowed any fruit or vegetables, and can’t have my lovely breakfast porridge (oatmeal) and have to have cornflakes instead – I always say there’s more nourishment in the packet than in the actual cornflakes! They are soooo boring… I can have white bread (I am eating French bread which I love) and butter and other dairy stuff (milk, yoghurt, rice pudding etc.). I can have potatoes with no skins, and white rice but no whole grains or nuts. I can have protein such as chicken and fish, and I can drink apple juice, tea, coffee and plenty of water.

On the final day (tomorrow) I cannot eat any solid food except jelly, for 24 hours before the procedure, but if I have my breakfast at a reasonable time that will be OK. For the rest of the day it will just be clear soup, apple juice, water, tea or coffee without milk (which I don’t like so will avoid, apart from green tea with honey). I am allowed jelly, and jelly babies for energy! I am encouraged to drink plenty of fluids right up to the time of the examination.

Tomorrow the worst part will be taking the powerful laxatives to purge my system. I have to take a bottle of senna, and then twice during the day, a sachet of Picolax dissolved in water. The effect of this is severe and acute diarrhoea, so I intend camping out in the bedroom so I can make frequent quick dashes into my en-suite bathroom! Previous experience has shown that my rear end gets very sore, and they recommend the application of Vaseline (petroleum jelly) to soothe the skin, and I am also prepared with two packs of unperfumed moist toilet tissue. The whole business is most unpleasant, and to make it easier, I am planning on surrounding myself with my laptop, a collection of DVDs that I’ve been saving for the purpose, my embroidery, books and my iPod!! Also containers of jelly, jelly babies, a Thermos of my best Jewish chicken soup (of which I could drink gallons, no problem!) made in advance, and jugs of water and apple juice!! With the kitties for warmth and company, I should be fine.

On Monday morning my hubby will drop me off at the hospital, and they will give me a sedative before inserting the camera into my bowel. They usually need to pump you up with CO2 (they used to use air, but with the muscle relaxant drug they give you, this caused an unacceptable amount or discomfort from wind retention afterwards – the CO2 is absorbed painlessly into the body). Because people who suffer from ulcerative colitis are at higher risk than the normal population of developing bowel cancer, they will look for pre-cancerous polyps and remove any they find, and will probably take a biopsy as well. The procedure really isn’t too bad, and afterwards, because of the sedative, one remembers very little about it. There is a recovery period, and then they will give me some food. Last time I asked for brown bread egg sandwiches and a cup of tea (I had two large cups) and it tasted like a king’s banquet – even the disgusting hospital tea!! Once I am home, I can start eating normally again, and go back on my medication.

I’ll let you know how I get on…

Monday, 5 January 2015

Decorations for Half-Tester

My first post in 2015! One of the things I have resolved to do this year is to try and clear the backlog of UFOs (UnFinished Objects) in my ARTHaven, and also to get back into some more textile-based work. One of my oldest UFOs was a project to create decorative drapes for our pine four-poster bed – something I started and never finished. I made the curtains but not the decorative top part. Last autumn I got a new adjustable bed to help with my various medical conditions (I am sleeping a lot better these days) so the four-poster had to go, which I was very sad about. The whole of the top section lifted off and could be disassembled, leaving the bed intact, so we kept the top and disposed of the pine bed base. A local carpenter used the timber from the upper part to create a new half-tester which is attached to the wall above the bed.

01 Half-Tester Construction

As before I have a small strip-light wired to the inside of the frame, and in the picture you can see the pull-cord hanging down. You can also see the velcro strips attached to the framework, to attach the fabric drapes – I will need to add some more for the decorative top part.

When I started making the pieces for the top, I also cut some smaller pieces in the same design and fabric, and used them to decorate a bag that I made:

02 Bag

You can see the separate flaps, each embellished with machine applique and hand embroidery, and each one finished with a different style of tassel.

These are the card templates I made for the bed project. At the back, underneath, you can see the two templates for each piece – the larger one is for cutting the fabric, and the smaller one for cutting the heavy interfacing. After cutting these out, I tacked the fabric onto the interfacing so that the applique and embroidery would go through both layers, and to finish each piece off, the edges of the fabric would be turned in over the interfacing, and a backing piece added.

03 Templates

The smaller templates are used for cutting out the applique pieces which are first ironed onto some Bondaweb.

What I have decided to do now, is to make each finished piece double-sided, and to attach the tops to the outside and the inside of the frame, respectively. Hopefully they will hang properly, but if not, I shall have to make separate pieces for the inside and outside, and maybe add tassels only to the outside pieces.

The next picture shows the pieces I have already started, with the machine applique. Top right is a pile of more pieces – no room to spread them all out to be photographed.

04 With Applique

The next photo shows some of the embroidery materials to be used to embellish the pieces. I have a collection of coloured threads with lurex – as usual the photo doesn’t show the sparkliness of these yarns – they are the large spools at the back. In the front of the basket is a selection of different coloured embroidery threads, and on the table in front, scissors, my mother-of-pearl stiletto and some crewel and chenille needles, and on the left, a selection of Indian shi-sha mirrors.

05 Embroidery Materials

I have done a lot of embroidery using these in the past, including on my wedding dress. These little circles of mirror have quite rough edges, and no holes for sewing them down as you’d find with sequins; there is a special shi-sha embroidery stitch which anchors them onto the surface of the fabric, rather like a rubbed-over setting of a gemstone in jewellery. When these tiny mirrors catch the light, they wink and flash, which is very dramatic on any fabric in motion such as a curtain, and they give a very rich, exotic look. I love them! Originally they would have been made of flakes of mica, but they are made of glass these days – the mirrors are far from optically perfect and look rather dull and grey before they are attached, but they do reflect the light wonderfully well.

Here are the pieces to which I have added embroidery so far. Some of them require further embellishment. The stitches I am using are fairly simple ones – chain stitch with variations, and stem stitch. I have never been any good at satin stitch or long-and-short stitch, and love using chain stitch to cover areas with colour, and for outlining shapes.

06 With Embroidery

As I progress with this work, I shall be showing some detail shots of the embroidery, but at this stage, this is just showing what I have done so far, after opening up the box and reminding myself what I have already achieved. I did all this so many years ago that I couldn’t really remember at all what I had done, and when I opened the box, was surprised to find my book on tassels, and also some wonderful notes from an embroidery day I attended when we lived in Plymouth – probably back in the 1980s! It was like Christmas, opening the box and finding all the lovely fabrics and shapes. This has to be one of the oldest UFOs in my possession, and high time it got an airing and was finished!

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

2014 Annual Review of my Art

The third of three posts for today, and the second of two review posts, as there was too much for a single post! WARNING: Long post, picture rich!

WOYWW visitors, please scroll down to the first post for today.

Working in my New ARTHaven

My new ARTHaven is proving to be a total delight and joy to work in. I love this room. I am surrounded by all my materials and equipment, organised how I want it, and the layout is so conducive to mixed media work, with each work zone flowing freely into the others. It is wonderful to be able to have my sewing machine out permanently, and have easy access to everything. I tend to use the main work zone most of the time, which doubles as a paper art and mixed media station, and I can easily bring materials out as required.

03 Gen View

Recycled Mini-Album

The main project of the year was the creation of my recycled mini-album, a gift for our niece, all about her grandfather (my father) who died almost exactly a year ago. It took me eight months to complete. The book itself was made from scratch, entirely from recycled materials – the cover from a dried milk carton and the pages from recycled Christmas cards. For the non-recycled materials and embellishments (e.g. metal hardware for the cover, thread for stitching the signatures, etc. etc.) I used only materials that were already in my stash, and with the exception of paints and gel mediums etc., it hasn’t cost me a penny to make! The discipline of using only recycled materials was great fun and gave a tremendous sense of achievement.

33 Cover with Embellishments

The pages were decorated with mixed media techniques with many different materials being used, from crumpled tissue paper to fruit net and Polyfilla (joint compound). I used acrylic paints and gel mediums, Perfect Pearls (mica powders), rubber stamping, Zentangle, collage, stencilling… Not only was this tremendous fun, but it also increased my knowledge base in the use of many materials, and was an adventure in mixed media.

035 Sun Sea and Sand

037 Scotland Title Page

061 Tigers Title Page

071 The Great Outdoors Blurred

083 Clocks Title Page

I enjoyed the feature I made of the borders, which were consistently black and white throughout, emphasising the carefully graded page sizes within each signature so that the borders became layered and compound as you turned each page. (For full details of the construction of the book, and embellishment of the pages, please see my blog archive in the left-hand side bar under “Recycled Mini-Album.”)

Card Making

Throughout the year I had to make the usual collection of cards. I am considering myself less and less a card maker and I don’t want to be type-cast as one, but they need to be done. Part of my problem is that I seem incapable of making “simple” cards and each one involved a huge investment of time as I want to make each one a completed art piece, and then I feel demoralised by the thought that if you take any piece of art and place it on a piece of folded card with a sentiment on it, it immediately becomes ephemeral, and I can’t escape the thought that its ultimate destination will be the waste paper bin when the birthday cards come down!

Here is a selection of some of my better efforts during the year (not in chronological order). For all the following items please click on the links for further information.

A house moving card. This was an original drawing in waterproof pen with colour added in the form of distress inks.

06 Envelope and Card

“Bejewelled” card. Background created with acrylic paint spattering and the application of sparkles, sequins and gems. Applied butterfly cut-outs.

18 Finished Card and Envelope

Thank-you card for the teacher of our soap making course – rubber stamping, inking, glass bead gel medium, printed photos cut out and applied.

08 Finished Card

Also for the same teacher, this time for the felt-making course, a mixed media card with pop-up inside, involving many techniques and materials and taking several days to complete.

46 Finished Card and Envelope

37 Completed Card Inside

A bereavement card for a Christian family.

13 Finished Card - Overlay

With the front overlay turned back:

14 Finished Card - Overlay Turned Back

Another mixed media card.

23 Finished Card

Birthday card for a bee-keeper.

13 Finished Card

A tag for a honey and lemon cold remedy:

07 Finished Tag

I acquired some Stampin’ Up equipment and made a few cards using this – these first are using the Mosaic Madness set.

First card:

Mosaic Madness Birthday Card 1

Second card:

01 Finished Card

Using the Six-sided Sampler set, I made this new home card:

25 Finished Card

Teabag Art and Zentangle

Throughout the year I have been collecting used teabags and drying them out for use in teabag art, which is something I am hoping to work on next year. For this year, I took watercolour paper and laid out the drying teabags on this, and they left beautiful and unique marks which I used as the foundation for art.

21 Teabag Drying Paper

To begin with I have been concentrating on adding Zentangle art to these marks, using a fine sepia pen – this is very fine work for which I sometimes need to resort to a magnifier. I have done a number of abstract  designs, picking out the natural creases and “holes” in the imprint.

32 2nd Row of Teabag Stain Zentangles

Taking this a bit further, I created a few cards, sometimes using the marks left by drying round tea bags. I made a small landscape for one of these, adding some colour in the form of distress inks.

Zentangle Teabag Stain Thank You Card 2

Zentangle Teabag Stain Thank You Card Devon Hills

Apart from this, I haven’t done a great deal of Zentangle this year, but I made this card for my hubby for Valentine’s day.

Valentine Card 2014

Other teabag art was mostly experimental, colouring with inks, stamping, etc.

08 Teabags Coloured with Distress Inks

11 Teabags with Rubber Stamping

I was hoping to add some machine embroidery and start joining the teabags together but it was then that I discovered that my old sewing machine was irreparably broken and that had to be put on hold for the time being.

Miscellaneous Projects

Other projects included an altered pizza box:

02 Box Closed

This mixed media project included the use of ripped corrugated cardboard and iridescent gel medium, together with applied images and text, acrylic paints and marker pens.

I did some experiments with different materials such as Tyvek and other meltable fabrics. This was a card I made, with a piece of melted nappy liner painted with acrylics. The texture was amazing, and it is a shame that the photo doesn’t do the colour justice, as the mixed browns were emphasised with the addition of gold gilding wax.

03 Finished Card

When we were away on holiday I came across some stuff called puff binder, and purchased a small quantity – it is very expensive so I experimented with different materials to see if I could make some myself, not very successfully, but the results could be used in similar ways.

02 Puff Binder and DIY Samples

Backgrounds, Scratch Papers and Masterboards

I spent one morning creating alcohol ink backgrounds on the back of solar panels fliers that we picked up at the county show (never throw anything out lol!).

13 All the Backgrounds

During the course of the year I created a number of backgrounds and useful papers by cleaning off brushes and stamps and mopping up, and saving the results. I made quite a few from kitchen paper used for cleaning up, trying to keep the colour schemes coherent as I worked on other projects. The advantage of these is that their layers can be split apart and you get more backgrounds for your bucks that way.

Black and Blue Kitchen Paper

Red and Yellow Kitchen Paper

No matter that sometimes holes appear – if the layers become stuck together with dried acrylic paint, it just adds to the distressed look!

Some background sheets maturing nicely!

Three Kitchen Papers Maturing Nicely

I also made some interesting “scratch” papers – large sheets of paper or card used for cleaning off brushes and using up left-over bits of paint.

A blue one, where I emphasised circles and swirls.

Blue Swirls 1

This is what this one developed into:

Blue Swirls 2

Another one, mostly black and white, again emphasising my favourite circles motif.

Circles Scratch Paper 1

A mixed colour one using a striped theme. This one also includes metallic acrylic paint.


These scratch papers are A3 in size.

I also made some masterboards (the same sort of thing, but created deliberately from scratch). With this first one I got a bit carried away and could have stopped earlier, when it was already looking pretty good. The end result is a very dark circles pattern, and with all the embossing resist it has a slightly waxy feel to it.

18 Finished Masterboard

This one is a seaside-themed one with shell rubber stamping.

08 Finished Masterboard

Again, the masterboards are A3 in size. They were created with a view to cutting them up and using the pieces as backgrounds in projects, but so far I haven’t cut any of these sheets up (masterboards or scratch papers) because I like them as they are, and they are also extremely useful as photographic backgrounds!


I have been working on and off on a major knitting project which I am ashamed to admit that I started two years ago! My excuse for taking so long over it is that we did move house in the middle of it… It is now finished, in the nick of time before the end of the year. Nice to have at least one UFO (UnFinished Object) done and dusted!

21 Finished Jumper


I got my dyeing equipment out again after many years:

01 Dyeing Equipment

and produced these browns for the knitting project:

Chestnut Brown - 2 Shades

For the felt making course (see below), I dyed some Merino rovings, but this wasn’t terribly satisfactory as however careful I was, the dyeing process tended to start the felting process, so I ultimately abandoned this and managed to source some ready-dyed rovings at a good price on Ebay, which also saved a lot of work.

Orange and Browns for Felt Class

I also did some experiments with dyeing from avocado stones and skins, which produce a lovely pinky-beige tone.

07 Materials Dried

As I develop my textile art skills further, this is an area I shall definitely be pursuing.

Felt Making

In the autumn I took part in two short evening courses. The first was on felt-making, and I was able to produce several interesting pieces, only one of which I have so far finished (I consider the others to be test pieces, learning the different techniques). The finished piece is a hair clip, using the poppies we made in the wet felted flowers class.

12 Finished Hair Clip

These are some of the unfinished pieces, the first being a wet-felted picture of poppies, which I am in the process of embellishing with some needle felting.

02 Poppy Centres and Petals

My second picture, which also requires some further work:

10 My Finished Piece

My nuno felted piece – one end of a scarf.

12 Nuno Felting

Soap Making

Before Christmas I attended the second course, this time on soap making, and have since been making soaps at home. Here are the natural soaps I made in one of the classes:

04 Three Natural Soaps

Honey soap that I made at home:

12 Wrapped Soaps

Other soaps made at home:

12 Soaps Wrapped and Labelled

10 Lavender Soap Wrapped

11 Lavender Soap with Label

All packaged up and ready to go:

Honey Soaps

Christmas Basket for Margaret 02 Side View

In the course we also made bath bombs and bath melts, which is probably not something I shall do again.

Since completing this course, I have joined the Soap Makers’ Forum online, and am on the mailing list for Soap Queen, and am learning a great deal from both of these sites. I shall definitely be pursuing soap making in the future, and it is neatly combined with other techniques too, because many of my skills can be employed in creating attractive packaging.

Notable Purchases for my ARTHaven During the Year

Kitty Squad stamp – from Stampotique. I have yet to unmount this stamp and remount it on E-Z Mount Foam – it will be a useful stamp, especially when I cut the kitties apart.

Darkroom Door Alphabet Medley stamp set – another very useful rubber stamp with a useful alphabet style for mixed media work.

Stampin’ Up stamp, stencil and punch sets, and some useful sentiment stamps. See posts above for details.

Various other miscellaneous stamps, stencils and embellishments.

Felt-making and soap-making supplies so I can continue this at home, having completed the courses.

Envelope punch board – the first envelope making board I’ve ever used that actually works (at least for me)! I have discovered lots of other things online that you can do with this, which will be fun to explore.

A trawl round the charity shops provided me with some great textiles for the altered clothing I want to tackle next year.

Plans for the Coming Year

Sheba, my Cougar cutting machine, has remained in the corner unused all year, I am afraid. As you can see, there has been a great deal else to do, and from my previous post you will see that we have been dealing with other issues in our life too, so it has taken a back seat for now. I would very much like to get going with it again, but it has been so long that I think I shall need to start again as a beginner, and one of the things putting me off starting again is the fear that I will need to invest a great deal of time in it, at the expense of other things. There are things I do need to use it for, though, so hopefully in the coming year this will become a priority.

Now that the mini-album is complete, I can return to the other album I started about Dad at the beginning of the year. This is an ongoing project, as is my Fine Art album which I started a couple of years back, and my small art journal. I should like to work further on all these books. I also want to get much more into book making in general, and explore different bindings, and make small books which take much less time than the major project of this year.

I am also drawn to working more with textiles. I have some charity shop stash to make up into upcycled clothing which is an area which interests me greatly. I also have a half-tester over the bed which requires drapes to be made, and the old four-poster drapes can be adapted and added to. This will involve using the sewing machine, and also quite a bit of hand embroidery, which is another area which has been neglected over the past many years and which I should like to return to soon.

I also have another knitting project waiting in the wings – another unravelling and remaking job!

The teabag art is also a major area of work. Over the past months I have accumulated a huge number of used teabags which can now be emptied and used as the basis of art work, and made up into projects.

I also want to get more video work done. This is very time consuming, but very enjoyable and creative.

In my ARTHaven I have a lot of equipment and materials which have not even been used yet, and during the coming year it would be nice to be able to put that right!

Who knows what the coming year will bring? I am hoping that health-wise and stress-wise, it will be better than the one just past, and that I shall have more opportunity, and more energy, to spend doing what I love best, being creative in my beautiful studio, with a clear conscience, and that I may continue to be stimulated by fresh ideas for design, and unusual ways of combining my beloved mixed media materials.

Thank you to all my faithful followers and visitors who have been with me throughout the year, and for all your lovely comments which were so encouraging and appreciative. A happy New Year to you all, and here’s hoping for a creative and productive year ahead.