Happy New Year Everyone!
(It's the Chinese year of the Dog, which probably explains why I am feeling woof?)
All the doors of the 'Advert Calendar' have now been closed (check out December 2017 in the archives of the blog page if you missed it), and now it's curtains for me!....
Yes, I always like to be producing something so during my Christmas hols I've been making new curtains for my 1930's Showman's wagon. The old pair were crushed red velvet with a gold trim, and the new ones are crushed red velvet with a gold trim...(Ok, I like red crushed velvet curtains with gold trims!).
However; I don't wish to blow my own trumpet but, I believe I may have produced the fanciest curtains in Circusdom. What do you think?
I've learnt a new skill today and it's riveting. Literally!
I thought I'd better make myself a bag to keep my 'Travelling the Road' tartan scarves and t-towels in as they don't look too 'business-like' in a Sainsbury's carrier bag.
The ingredients I used were-
A piece of 'Travelling the Road' hand woven wool tartan,
An old bicycle tyre I found outside,
A 100% cotton scarf lining,
A bag of shackles ,
A pack of tarpaulin eyelets,
Some square sew-on embellishments for Cat's-eyes.
Red, Amber, Green Glass beads.
As I had decided a new weaving loom was not in my price range at the moment, I bought a 1950's children's Spears Weaving loom to work out the thread count etc of the tartan I've designed. This type of loom allowed me to develop a fine weave tartan, but the process turned out to be far more complex than I could ever have imagined a simple line design could be.
To register a tartan with the Scottish Tartans Authority you need to know first the thread count, (how many threads of each colour and in what order etc); the sett, whether it's a diagonal repeat etc etc. There are companies which will help you design a tartan but they want a nice cut per yard if it's woven.
Anyway, with all the experimenting I did to get the right thread count,colours etc. it's meant that I've now got some nice samples of the fabric in it's development. Hence the piece of tartan I used in this bag.
I decided to use a tyre in the design as it's representative of travelling and it makes it chunky and funky. The shackles and eyelets? well, they're just plain sexy!
I can't stop stroking it, is that wrong?
I think it’s fair to say I’ve turned into a right sew and sew already this month. My 6ft x 4ft £30 shed has been transformed into a cosy sewing hut. I’ve ‘Thatched’ the roof with cider cans and miraculously it seems to be waterproof and I’ve lined the inside with some sheets of polystyrene I found at Glastonbury Festival. I was a bit worried with all those gales last night that it was going to take off like Dorothy’s cabin in the Wizard of Oz and I was so happy to see it still sat there this morning. (It must have been the ‘Thatcher King’ I made and put on the apex of the roof creating some sort of Ciderdelic voodoo to protect it).
I’ve got to admit when the light starts to fade I do need to ‘cotton on’ to some better lighting inside though. It’s ‘Reel’ bad. (A bit like that pun) and finally, as you can see I need to ‘shed’ some light on it……(Help!,I seriously need to go to 'pun' detox)....
Today I’ve been sewing the edges of a pure merino wool ‘Travelling the Road ‘ scarf I’ve woven (not a very good pic, I know). I’d read that you had to leave a little extra wool in the weave so that the final piece of cloth isn’t pulled or bunched, but I think I’ve over done it and the effect is a little loopy.
Kind of apt for me though eh? A little bit loopy!
I love little pussy her coat is so warm,
and if I put my bag down for a minute she sneakily curls up on it.
My cat Eartha thinks my new merino wool bag is the cat's whiskers, and even though I keep removing her from it she's convinced if she sneaks up again and looks casual I won't notice her. Not a cat in Hell's chance Eartha.
Busy, busy busy......
When someone suggested today we go for a walk up Brent Knoll to blow the cobwebs away from the over indulgences of the Festive Season I though “here’s a good chance to test out my ‘Travelling the Road’ merino wool scarf”.
The little online bit I’d read which stated it was just a short walk from the church turned out to be a load of ‘hillocks’. Why oh why didn’t I work it out for myself that to get to the top of a hill you have to walk uphill! However: I made like Sir Edmund Hilary and reached the 449ft summit, but whoa was it blowy!
You can see the directions of my hair in the two pics, the one on the left is at base camp, hair pointing down. The one on the right is at the summit hair pointing up.
The real champ though was the scarf. There was no tickling or scratching as I’d used King Cole anti-tickle merino wool in the weaving of it. When I got back to the car I felt like doing a David ‘Brent Knoll’ dance, (David Brent being the guy from 'The Office' played by Ricky Gervais) but I thought that maybe Brent Knoll village wasn’t ready for me yet?....
Do you ever put things ‘somewhere safe’ and then can’t remember where you have put them? That’s what I did with a small offcut of bicycle tyre, but Hey Presto! it turned up today in an obvious place (I’m sure it wasn’t there before?) This meant I could attach the last shackle on my bag, which is the closure shackle. Like the needle I used this bag has been a learning ‘curve’. The needle started off straight but sewing through rubber with thick thread has left it bent, even though I’ve straightened it out a couple of times. I’m pleased with the finished article and the T-towels and scarves fit perfectly inside. ‘Travelling the Road’ tartan? You could say I’ve got that one in the bag!
Good Golly Miss Molly! I do love the local buy and sell groups on Facebook. I've just bought a 'Brother' from another mother. I was lucky enough to get this 1950's semi-industrial sewing machine today for a bargain price. It's so classy looking, with a proper 'Rock n Roll' or 50's style Cadillac gold font logo. I've given it a good clean and removed a lot of lint from inside it. These machines are far sturdier than most modern ones. I've just got to give it a good oiling now 'cos you know how it is with these golden oldies "Grease is the word"! I feel like I should be wearing a circle skirt and bobby socks when I'm using it but in my shed I think thermals and a bobble hat are more suitable. Ok, so I'm off to play with my 'Sweet little Rock and Roller'. See you later Alligators!
I know to some people vintage sewing machines are of no interest, so I've decided to 'sex' mine 'up' to try and share some of it's extremely attractive qualities with you. I've made a list of 10 points (with pictures) that make my semi-industrial 1950's wonder extra special. Here it is, and I suggest you read it slowly with a Nigella Lawson voice-
Damn it!!!! ...Why does my Nigella Lawson always turn into Mrs Slocombe?
Maybe it's just not possible to 'sex up' sewing after all?
It's been a lovely cold but sunny day today, great for reminding us that spring will be coming soon!
I managed to get the light working on my vintage sewing machine today. I took a bulb from my broken machine and tried it in the socket but nothing happened . So I removed the bulb and got a bit of sandpaper and sanded the brass points in the socket (obviously with the power switched off haha). Still it didn't work, so I levered up the brass points in the socket to try and get a better connection with the bulb and Hey Pesto! it worked!
So it's been cleaned; oiled and, Hallelujah! now I can truly see the light!.
I’m Stihl on the sewing ‘thread’ today. I’ve just uploaded a fabric design on Print me Pretty called ‘And I love you Stihl’ . I’ve entered it into their monthly design challenge.
In the past I’ve carved quite a few chainsaw sculptures and always fancied designing some fabric with a chainsaw theme. (Maybe you could vote for me when the design challenge goes live on January 17th, ‘cos I hate to be a ‘Saw’ loser haha). I have another fabric on the site which I designed for their Bonfire Night Challenge called ‘Bangers!’ featuring old fashioned banger fireworks, (not every car I’ve ever owned). I am ‘Living in a 'Material' World’ at the moment and it’s Fab-ric! …
Today I've been having a spring clean of my 1930's Showman's living wagon. I've decided to sell my beloved Hostess Stove as I need to make the tow weight lighter so that it can be towed with a smaller lorry. I've listed it on eBay and it's got lots of watchers already. I feel quite nervous about letting it go, almost like I'm giving a kitten away. Strange how inanimate objects can make you feel like that, or is it just me? (feel free to leave a comment and let me know)
I got an email today reminding me that the last day to enter the National Portrait Gallery Competition is nearly here. Every year I get this email and every year I think "Next year I'll be more organised, and I'll have the perfect sized oil portrait ready to take a pic of to enter", and it goes on and on each year with me always forgetting to be prepared for it.
I used to enter it years ago when I had to drive my actual paintings to a pick-up point in Bristol from where it could be transfered to London. I bet the NPG is so greatful to the digital era whereby folks just have to send a jpg.
Back in the early 90's I went on the Enterprise Allowance Scheme as a Portrait Artist; this was well before the computer digital era and I might have made a decent living out of it if I had lived in one place, but I was constantly moving around which didn't help with commissions. I had a portfolio of famous faces at the time to show people how I could capture a likeness, and I generally worked in watercolour pencils for convenience. Here's a water colour pencil pic of Frank Bruno who was a top boxer in the early 90's, what do you reckon?
(I've been avoiding the internet for the past couple of days, sometimes I just have to get away from it as it can really hook you in.) I've been busying myelf though. I've designed a doormat for the showman's wagon, made and packaged 10 t-towels, finished building my new loom and managed to warp it (thread it up).
There are youtube videos that show a similar loom being warped up in 15 mins. I imagined I would be able to do this too but in reality it took me into the early hours of last night; but I got there in the end. It can be such a tease when someone makes a job appear so simple because they've done it hundreds of times, but when you try to do the same thing it feels like someone has put some massive comedy mittens on you and a pair of vaseline smeared goggles. I can't blame the woman in the tutorial though.......It's probably just her 'warped' sense of humour.
I've just tied off my first, larger piece of tartan made on a loom. I'd almost got the hang of using the loom once I was near to finishing the cloth. Now I can't wait to make my first item out of it. I've been thinking maybe a waistcoat and hat, (but not a 'tam o shanter' haha).
Your Artist will be with you shortly, in the meantime here's the test card.........
Khan the cat on a cold tin roof keeps guard along with the Jolly Thatcher King as I attach a hanger for a solar lantern onto my sewing hut. This time though, it's not a Thatchers I'm using; it's a Woodpecker!
Ok, so I've found a sewing pattern for both male and female waistcoats that I like and I've woven enough fabric to make them so here goes! It's going to feel a bit scary cutting up the fabric I have woven on the loom, and I'll have to stitch the edges before cutting to prevent unravelling of the fabric . If it all goes to plan these will be very, very exculsive waistcoats. They will be hand-woven in my unique design and hand made by me. Let's hope it all goes to plan and they end up being waistcoats and not wastecoats haha......wish me luck!
I can't help thinking about my parents today. January the 25th was their wedding anniversary. They were married for 29 years and remained good friends after their divorce (it always helps if there is nobody else involved). My dad sadly died 3 years ago, but my parents were such a great support and absolutely believed in my talents as an artist. From a very young age I was encouraged to pursue my skills and they encouraged this by asking me to paint the house signs for our smallholding when I was aged 13. Then at 15 they asked me to paint the whole frontage of the shop they ran at a campsite they managed when my dad retired from Fylingdales Early Warning Missile Station. (The campsite was Ugthorpe Lodge Caravan Park, and I love the fact that the campsite are now offering shepherd's hut style accomodation to stay in). The frontage included half a dozen eggs in an egg box, ice creams, sweets and other things we sold in the campsite shop, (there may have even been a bog roll in there) .I wish I had a photo of it but basically the frontage was like something you'd see on a trendy pub in Stokes Croft in Bristol. If only we had had camera phones back then, ..but on second thoughts, maybe not haha.
Today I'm biting the bullet and cutting out the pattern for the 'Travelling the Road' tartan waistcoat I'm about to make. I'm hoping I can succeed in the task before a dog or cat runs in and trashes the very thin and delicate paper...fingers crossed!
I'm loving the yellow and black two tone gaberdine style lining I've chosen for the waistcoat. The ebay seller who was selling it; said it was a batch that was made for Burberry but they never used it, and to be honest I wouldn't be suprised if it was because it feels like it is such good quality.
I've been picking and un-picking the collar and seams of the waistcoat until I got it right. Now I am picking the buttons for it. I've been saving these enamelled wheel buttons for ages to put on something special and I reckon they look just right on this waistcoat, (you could say I'm wheely chuffed, but then again ...maybe not?)
It's very nerve wracking cutting up the fabric you have woven, but it's just as scary doing the button holes on the waistcoat. I kind of allowed myself to be distracted by making myself a Baker's Boy hat rather than tackling the dreaded things. I literally 'take my hat off' to anyone that can do them with ease. The cap turned out ok though, and I topped it off with a wheel button as well, (there's a close up of the button top right as it wasn't very clear in the photo) ...have a 'peak' below....
At last I managed to get into town today and buy some tailor's chalk for marking out my fabric for cutting it. I have been using standard blackboard chalk and the line is too thick so now the job should be more exact. I love the fact that I can still buy Tailors Chalk from the sewing shop in town. So many small independent shops and makers on the high street are closing down.
When I was a child most adult women would have had Tailors Chalk in their sewing box for marking out. It's very nostalgic for me as my mum was a seamstress and always had a good supply and I still love holding a new triangular piece in my hand as it's so smooth to touch. Thank-you 'Groves' of Thame, Oxforshire for continuing to make it. You can 'Chalk' me up as another happy customer!
Last day of the month and January has flown by. It's been very chilly today but the sun shone this morning as I walked over to my sewing hut, and I couldn't help but notice the daffodils are beginning to push their way through the cold earth ready for the trumpet herald. Excellent!
So I'm bidding farewell to January; it's never been an easy month, and not an easy one to rhyme with.
But........Can you worry about January?.........Nope!
The day to day life of a Somerset Artist