Wednesday, 30 April 2014


Wow! It’s the WOYWW-ing day again! In case you don’t know what I’m on about, click on the WOYWW logo in my sidebar which will take you to our hostess Julia’s blog, where all will be explained.

Another week has gone by and I haven’t yet plugged in my new sewing machine! I did manage to do a few more rows on my knitting, though, but not enough to make an interesting photo.

Most of my time has been taken up working on my recycled mini-album which you can read about here and here, as I have now updated my blog with a couple of posts about it, slotted in in date order. I have also been working hard at the videos, and there are now 5 instalments of this project on my Youtube channel. I will be adding them to my blog when the work on the album is finished. I am now using Final Cut Pro X on my iMac, having got totally fed up with Pinnacle which kept crashing and not playing ball, and various other video editing programs I’ve tried over the years. FCP is a total dream in comparison – it just does what I want, when I want, and it is so powerful. There is loads of fabulous help online and I am now feeling very at home with it, and wished I’d made this investment years ago. It is all such fun, as well as producing outstanding results for me.

My desk isn’t looking that interesting now, but here goes anyway:


On the left you can see my iMac with FCP running. Moving to the right, the pile of white paper is copious notes and instructions gleaned from the Internet to help me achieve what I want in FCP. To the right of that is the mini-album, now with its pages painted black and the binding more or less complete. Behind it is some talc and a small bowl – I have been lightly dusting the pages with talc in an attempt to prevent them sticking together. Further right, black gesso and black acrylic paint. Just in front of these you can just see the end papers I’ve made for the album. Further right is my palette, followed by more piles of scrap paper with notes on them. These notes relate to the planning of the album and what photos I will need, etc.

Hopefully soon you will see something from my new sewing machine. In the meantime, the rest of my ARTHaven is cluttered up as usual with drying teabags! Nothing new there, I hear you say.

Have a happy and productive week, everybody, and a very happy WOYWW.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Recycled Mini-Album–Binding and Painting the Signatures

I have now bound the signatures into the cover, and also worked on the end papers. In keeping with this being a recycled project, I thought it would be fun to make the end papers from recycled papers. For some time I have been saving commercial envelopes with printed designs inside them – these designs are supposed to make it impossible to read the contents of the envelope. Some of them are really quite attractive, and if you unfold the envelopes you can salvage some quite decent sized pieces.

There was only one design that I had enough of to do this project, a kind of herringbone pattern resembling a twill weave, in a brownish colour which suits the style of the book quite well.

14 Paper for End Papers

It was a bit dull on its own, so after cutting them to size, I stamped them with an Artistic Stampers music background stamp, using Pumice Stone Distress Ink. I then inked the paper with more Pumice Stone, and then distressed the edges further with Walnut Stain Distress Ink. This is the result.

15 End Papers

Unfortunately, as is my wont, I didn’t think far enough ahead, and the end paper which will be stuck to the first and last pages will have to be trimmed to fit, which means that the music on that side will no longer be in the centre… Ah well, you can’t expect perfection all of the time!

Before the end papers are put in, I have to attach the embellishments on the cover so that the brad backs will be concealed behind the end papers. I have decided to leave this until I’ve completed the construction of the inside of the book.

I painted the spine with black acrylic paint in case any of it shows once it is covered when the book is completed.

Stitching the signatures and binding them into the cover, I had to decide whether or not to create a decorative spine using the excess thread from stitching each signature. Jennibellie does this to great effect, stringing beads etc. onto the threads. However, I decided I wanted this little book to have a traditional, vintage look, and to be more masculine, so I decided to create a plain binding. To do this, you have to begin with the thread on the inside, working in figure-of-eight style through the prepared holes in the signatures and in the binding, and finally tying the ends together tightly, cutting off the excess, and to be sure that it won’t come undone, adding a small blob of glue onto the knot. This leaves a very clean and neat finish on the outside of the spine.

16 Stitching the Signatures

It was quite difficult when returning through the centre hole, not to catch the previous thread with the needle – if this happens, it is impossible to pull up the threads tightly, prior to tying.

17 Signatures Stitched into Binding

I used waxed linen thread which is nice and strong.  In the above photo, the stitching is complete, but the ends of the threads have yet to be cut off. This is what the spine looks like at this stage:

18 Spine with Signature Stitching

For an album this size, three holes per signature are sufficient. To finish this off nicely, I painted the spine again with black acrylic paint.

19 Signature Stitching on Spine Painted Black

The inside of the front cover looks like this, with the faux leather folded around and glued.

20 Inside Front Cover

The first signature is on the right. As with all of them, the outermost page is the largest recycled Christmas card. Here it is weighted down with my heat gun – the signatures initially proved very springy and unwilling to lie flat, but they soon settled down. Also, I the book will look better once it has something on the pages to bulk them up a bit.

I painted the red Christmas card with white gesso, and then added some burnt umber acrylic paint around the edges, and also into the corners of the folded faux leather, so that no white would show once the end papers were glued in place.

In the next picture, you can see the different sized cards forming the pages in each signature. I think this will make for an interesting appearance once I paint the borders on the pages.

21 The Pages

Because the colour scheme of the finished book is going to be fairly dark, I decided to paint the pages with black gesso rather than white.

22 Painting the Pages with Black Gesso

I had awful problems with the pages sticking together. To start with, I dried each one vigorously with the heat gun in an attempt to speed up the process, but it only seemed to make it worse – I was probably melting the acrylic in the gesso! When I returned to the book later, this is the sort of thing I found on each double page spread, even happening where there is a gap between the signatures, as in this case:

23 Problems with the Pages Sticking Together

Horrible, isn’t it. Opening the book, you could hear an awful cracking, crunching sound as the pages popped apart, causing damage each time.

I tried going through the whole book, repainting each page, and this time leaving them to dry naturally for several hours or overnight, and the result was certainly better, but the problem remained. It occurred to me that other people might have experienced the same difficulties, and a Google search showed this to be the case. There were quite a few helpful suggestions as to how to deal with the problem, but most involved inserting an extra page between the art pages, made of either waxed paper or baking parchment. I did not want to do this as it would spoil the overall effect of the book. The best solution I could find was to add a protective layer to each page – some people suggested watered down gel medium but I think the problem would have remained. The addition of a fine dry powder such as talcum powder or cornflour seemed to be the best solution, and this is what I have done.

24 Painting the Pages with Talc

Tipping a small amount of baby powder into a bowl, I used a very large, soft brush to apply a very small quantity to the pages. So far, so good!

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 can 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 can 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 cover 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!

Friday, 18 April 2014

Recycled Mini-Album

Unfortunately I am unable to get started with my new sewing machine because I have a bit of a deadline for a new project, which I must at least make a good start on before I do anything else.

Being inspired as always by Jennibellie, I have started making a mini-album entirely from recycled and junk materials. I am really enjoying being in Frugal Mode, and am amazed how good it feels, making art from things that normally find their way into the bin! My ARTHaven is cluttered up with empty cereal boxes and other food packaging and it’s fun to repurpose and upcycle it. Cereal packet cardboard is very good quality and can be used to make all sorts of things.

The foundation for this album is a dried milk box which I cut down to be less tall and more square, to fit the square shaped Christmas cards which were going to be thrown away. Funny how last year, the majority of the cards we received were square rather than rectangular…

01 Dried Milk Box

02 Christmas Cards

To make a book cover from a cereal box or other similar packaging, you need first to take the book apart and lay it flat. You can fold in the flaps and glue them down to make the cover more rigid. The narrow edge of the box opposite where you opened it forms the spine of the book. The box can be cut down to whatever size you want.

03 Constructing the Album Cover

04 Constructing the Album Cover 2

To make the signatures (bundles of pages) I selected several of the larger square cards and cut them all to the same size. To each one I added several smaller ones, cut down so that there is a quarter-inch difference in size all round – when painted, these pages will have borders which will be visible outside the smaller pages, which should produce multiple borders by the time you reach the centre-fold of each signature.

I only had enough cards to make five signatures, and these are pretty loose between the covers of the album, but once they have been covered with decorative papers, painted, had photos, journaling and embellishments added to them, they should fit nicely. In my opinion there is nothing worse than an album that is bursting at the seams with too small a spine so that it will not close!

The theme will be steampunk, and I needed more or less to complete the cover before adding the signatures, as it will be much more difficult to do so once the book is assembled. Any embellishments that require brads to attach them have to be attached to the cover before the end-papers are added, as these will conceal the backs of the fastenings.

Jennibellie has made a number of journals where the threads attaching the signatures to the binding become a feature – something to which to attach beads etc. to make a highly decorative spine. However, for this album I don’t want to do this, but to keep to a traditional, old-fashioned book appearance, with the stitching concealed.

I have covered the front and back boards of the cover with faux leather, according to Sheena Douglass’ excellent tutorial on the subject. She uses craft card which is quite substantial and is strong enough to stand alone as a soft “leather” cover for her notebooks, but since I wanted to use the faux leather to cover existing boards, its inherent strength wasn’t an issue, and anyway I didn’t want to use new materials for this. Instead, I had a good rummage amongst my odd bits and pieces of paper and card, and came across some ordinary computer/office card which I had printed some Christmas service sheets on for church many years ago – they were printed on both sides, so I’m not sure why I kept them. I knew this wasn’t terribly good quality card and it might not stand up very well to getting wet, but I had nothing to lose by trying!

05 Service Sheets

After spraying on the glycerine/water mixture, I had to be careful when “massaging” it into the surface of the card because I could feel very quickly that the surface was beginning to break down, so I patted it gently to encourage the liquid to penetrate the fibres of the card, turning it over frequently and working on it gently. I used three applications of the liquid in the end, scrunching it up between each one. I was able to avoid tearing it by taking great care when teasing it apart after it had been scrunched.

06 Spraying the Card with Glycerine

07 Scrunching the Card

Using craft card, of course, Sheena was off to a head start with an existing brown substrate, but being white, mine had to be painted. I used slightly watered down Raw Umber acrylic paint for the first coat – I didn’t want to apply anything too thick because I thought it might cause the card to tear. A second coat of less watered-down paint achieved the result I was looking for, covering up all the white. It immediately took on the appearance of leather, and when dry, even felt like leather! To add a little dimension, I dry-brushed a mixture of Burnt Umber and Yellow Ochre acrylic paint onto the raised surface of the card, taking great care to use a gentle touch and not overdo the effect. I decided against embossing the card because a) I didn’t have an embossing folder large enough, and b) I really liked the effect of the faux leather as it was.

08 Completed Faux Leather

I painted the spine of the cover inside and out, first with a coat of black gesso, and then with a single coat of black acrylic paint. I cut the two pieces of faux leather down to size and used them to cover the front and back boards of the cover, taking it right up to the edge of the spine, and folding the excess around the boards, mitring the corners.

09 Faux Leather on Cover

I chose a name plate from my stash of Tim Holtz hardware and created the title of the book, cutting a small piece of dried milk box to fit the name plate, and stamping on the reverse side with my alphabet stamp set, lining up the letters with my stamp positioner tool – this is actually harder than it looks, and each time I use it, I have to look up the instructions! Of course, I don’t do a lot of stamping, which probably explains it!!

10 Materials for Name Plate

11 Name Plate on Faux Leather

I used my sepia archival ink pad to stamp the letters, and then took one of my home-made inking pads made from cut-and-dry foam adhered to old wooden blocks left over from when I unmounted my original stamps, and distressed the edges using Walnut Stain Distress Ink. I gave it a quick spray with fixative to preserve it, and with a tiny bead of Scotch Quick Dry Adhesive inside the frame, stuck it into the name plate, ready for attaching to the centre of the front board of the cover. I also selected some metal corners from my Tim Holtz stash, and a Friendly Plastic gearwheel which I cast some time ago, which I may use to form the album closure.

The signatures were all marked and pierced ready for the waxed linen thread to stitch them together and to the binding. I marked with pencil where to pierce the holes for the stitching.

12 Materials for Stitching the Signatures

For the end papers, I found a couple of interesting sheets from my folder of decorative papers which once formed the linings of commercial envelopes – these designs were printed on to prevent people being able to see through the envelopes and read the contents. Most of them seem to be blue, but I had a few sheets of brown, and some of these will be used for the end papers, with the addition of some Distress Ink.

13 Envelope Lining Papers

This is as far as I have got to date. I am making videos of the process, and I hope you will be encouraged to make art from waste materials too – it makes one think of things differently, and makes one more observant too, as one considers the most mundane things and wonders how one can use them.

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.

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