Monthly Archives: August 2016

2.4: Health and Safety


Health and Safety

This is one of the things I tend to forget to include, although I do bear it mind while I’m working.Burning my finger on the soldering iron has prompted me to write something out for Module 2, Chapter 4, and rather than adding it to the main post, I’ve done a separate post (which is a little garbled), just to show I do think about these things.

Soldering Iron

DSCN7940 (2)

The soldering iron, in its pot, ready for  burnt plastic, burnt acetate and burnt finger to be cleaned from the tip!

I was trying to see if I could use the soldering iron to cut a stencil on an acetate sheet, using a plastic letter as a template, and the wooden bread board as a base to work on – none of which was a good idea. Luckily, the finger isn’t badly burned – I caught it, because I wasn’t paying attention, but it’s painful, and it’s the forefinger on the right hand, and I’m right-handed which makes it awkward to do things. And I’ve got nothing to show for my efforts, because I melted the side of the plastic letter, and the acetate melted unevenly but didn’t burn all the way through (and it smelled awful). And I’ve got burn marks on the bread board. All I can say in my favour is that I always rest the soldering iron through the hole of a big earthenware plant pot, and I don’t have trailing wires. But I shall be a lot more careful in future, and will invest in some kind of safer surface to work on, and remember to work in a well ventilated space, and to keep my fingers well away from the hot metal bits.

Cutting Metal

The aluminium cider can I cut the pen nibs from is easy to cut with an old pair of scissors, and the edges aren’t really sharp, but I usually wear gardening gloves to protect my hands. And after the incident with the soldering iron, I might start sanding the edges (with the gloves on) just to be on the safe side. The main issue is little bits of metal flying all over the place if you keep trimming it to get the right shape and size. In an ideal world I guess one should wear protective goggles, but glasses seem to offer some protection to your eyes – I wear my spare pair, so there’s no risk of damaging the decent ones.

Cutting with a Craft Knife

I’m not very good at this, but I use a self-healing cutting mat, and a cut against the edge of a thick plastic patchwork measure. And try to remember to cut away from me, and use the cover on the knife when it’s not in use.

Sewing Machine

Normally I use this in the spare room, and the desk it’s on is right next to the switch, and the wires are neatly tucked away between the desk and a book shelf. I never put drinks there, for fear of knocking them over, and if I’m changing needles, or putting a different foot on, or something like that, I usually switch off, or check that my foot is nowhere near the pedal!

My Little Shed (aka The Glory Hole)

DSCN7108This is where I store arty-crafty things and do quite a bit of work. It does get very messy (it’s very small and I’m not very tidy) but I do my best to put things away, to reduce the chance of spillages, breakages, accidents etc (I’ve got lots of drawers and some shelving). It does have electricity, and I’m very careful not to have trailing wires, and to ensure that anything electrical is switched off each time I leave, and I make sure I don’t leave drinks or water for painting on the side where the plug is (when I was working I once spilled fizzy pop over a computer keyboard, with disastrous consequences, and ever since then I’ve been wary of drinks near electrical stuff).


A plastic drawer unit supporting the work surface – there’s another one at the other end.

The work surface is under the window, so there’s plenty of good natural light, but I’ve got one of those spot-light type lamps that I can swivel around to get the light where I want, if I need it. The work surface (a board across the top of two plastic drawer units for storage) is exactly the right height for me (but too low for most people I expect) so I don’t get back ache or anything. And the chair is an old folding wooden garden chair, which is also exactly the right height for someone who is five foot nothing, and just perfect with the work surface. If I’m doing anything that could involve fumes I can work with the door open (wide open when it’s sunny, and wedged ajar with a brick when it’s cold and wet!).I keep plenty of baby wipes and kitchen roll for mopping up and cleaning things.

I don’t have to worry about children or animals, and anything hazardous is labelled (but some jars of made-up Brusho ink and Procion dyes are not labelled, and I have no idea which is which, and the liquids look remarkably similar).

I’m very lucky, because my husband made the shed for me a couple of years ago, and he even insulated it, and put the tiniest electric oil radiator in there for mega-icy winter weather! Then, when I showed Mum some photos she was so impressed she gave me cash to buy storage containers to replace the ill-matched assortment of cardboard boxes I had been using.


2.4 Rosalie Gascoigne


I’ve been playing around again, and I’ve made a book about Rosalie Gascoigne, from recycled paper (stitching recycled paper is Chapter 5, and stitched books are Chapter 10, so I’m ahead of myself!)..Pictures first, explanation last! Here’s the front and the back (no covers). If you look carefully you can see the stitches down the spine.

And all the pages, scanned in before I stitched them together:

gascoigne 1

gascoigne 2

gascoigne 3

gascoigne 4

gascoigne 5

gascoigne 6

gascoigne 7

gascoigne 8

gascoigne 9

gascoigne 10

gascoigne 13

gascoigne 14

gascoigne 15

gascoigne 16

gascoigne 17

gascoigne 18



For some reason I really liked Rosalie Gascoigne’s work. I’m not sure why, but it struck a chord somehow, and I like the idea of using recycled things. So everything here is reused or left over. The book was rescued from an Oxfam recycling bag – it had lost its covers and was shedding pages. The pictures of her work were printed on the back of my husband’s old worksheets (from when he was teaching – we seem to have a never-ending supply of them). The red thread was in a box of oddments in a charity shop, and the sepia ink was among the art and calligraphy things my mother gave me. And I still had metal from the old cider can I used before, so I made two pen nibs specially for this, one slightly thicker than the other, and taped them to handles made from the long wooden handle of a grotty old paint brush.

Initially I intended to paint the surface, but it seemed a shame, because there is some wonderful patchy yellowing and browning, and wanted to leave the printed words and pictures rather than trying to hide them. I’m not sure this is totally successful – it foes make it difficult to read. Anyway, I tore the pages into squares, strips and rectangles, to echo the shapes in Gascoigne’s work. I joined them together using a zigzag stitch on the sewing machine. I ought to have done some samples first, but I was so excited about trying this I jumped straight in, and learned as I went along. First I tried stitching with the pieces butted up against each, but this was very tricky, because the paper is rather brittle, and the edges weren’t straight, even though I tore them against the edges of a ruler.I really liked the effect of producing uneven gaps (I seem to remember there’s a hand embroidery technique called faggoting where you do this, but it’s all very even and delicate). However, because the paper is fragile it didn’t seem very stable and in some places I couldn’t get a long enough stitch to hold the paper together. But it would be nice for a different project – a hanging perhaps, with hand stitching.

Anyway, in the end I overlapped the pieces, which did seem to make the paper slightly firmer, and everything held together better. I varied my stitch length and width – in the end I found longer with a medium width held the paper together best, and didn’t look too bad, though I’f have liked it to be slightly smaller. I supposed I could have used a cream thread, which wouldn’t have been as noticeable, but noticeable stitching is what I wanted. I felt that if you are going to join things up like this you should be able to see the joins! I left my loose ends because last time I did something (when I was messing around with glue) I cut them off, then wished I hadn’t. But by the time I’d written on the paper it looked awful – much too busy. So I trimmed them, but left small bits.

Writing on the surfaces I’d created wasn’t easy: I couldn’t write over the stitching, so I left gaps in words and continued on the other side (though on one page I did try writing different bits in each ‘box’ but they were too small and the text got muddled). I thick a spirit-based felt tip marker might have been more successful (and more legible), but I wanted the writing to look uneven and faded, and in any case it wouldn’t have fitted in with what I was trying to do.

I did consider trying to print pictures of her work on pages from the book, but I thought that would alter what she’d done, because the colour and print would show through. So I thought of recycling the old photocopies. I started with smaller pictures, and was going to to stick them to break the copy up, but they looked something of nothing, so I printed them bigger and gave each one a page to itself, because they are the important thing. I tore round the edges of the pictures – I tried distressing one edge, which looks good, but takes sooooooo long…. So I left them as they were.

Then I stab stitched all the pages together. I was going to make a front and back cover, but it was quite tricky making the holes, what with the uneven edges, and the stitching, and the way I pieced the pages, so I decided covers would just complicate things. I started stitching the spine with the red thread, but it was way OTT, and detracted from everything else, so I used cream thread, from the same box of bits, in the same charity shop, as the red.

I know this could be viewed as one my time-waster activities, and it’s not very innovative, and for something that is supposed to record research on an artist it’s not very legible, but I enjoyed planning and working on this so much. I’ve made a book, and I made all the pages in it, and the pens, and I used!!!!!  The only thing I haven’t made or recycled is the glue. Next time I do anything like this I might try good, old-fashioned flour and water paste, if I can remember how to do it. I had a very clear idea of what I was trying to do, and on the whole I’m quite pleased with it. Actually, if it’s not too being too big-headed to say so, I’m very pleased with it – really thrilled. So much so that if I did it again I don’t think it would be very different!

Bibliography/References (you can read a really interesting interview with her on this site)

( (all the pictures of her work came from here – it’s a brilliant resource for all kinds of artwork, though I’m not sure about copyright)

Workbook, Distant Stitch, Module 2, Chapter 10.



2.4. Another Detour


I’m not sure whether these really fit the remit for Chapter 4, and the post seemed to be getting awfully long, so I thought it might make things easier to put these pages in a separate post. It’s been in drafts while I finished my nook (see the Rosalie Gascoigne post) and since then I’ve been back to the sketchbook and decorated some more of the pages, and added in a few more things, but I haven’t scanned any of the additions. Again, the pages are self-explanatory, and samples more than anything else.They’re a bit self-indulgent really – I was curious to get some idea of the number of variations…. And I wish I’d used all recycled paper, rather than a photocopy shortcut, which doesn’t really save time, and isn’t so effective. I know, I keep saying that. I like the way that you can make the original letter disappear – and with some patterns I even created new letters, quite accidently!

detour a

detour b

detour c

detour d

detour e

detour f

detour l

detour m

Below: Glue drawing round a template (I used the clear sheet over the template, to trace it off), rubbed over with wax crayon and painted with acrylics on a nappy liner. You lose the sharpness of the outline with a glue drawing, and the lines are mostly doubled, but the shapes are more complete than my free-hand writing in glue!

detour o

2.4: Take a Letter (Activities)


Module 2, Chapter 4 Take a Letter

Individual letter shapes can provide a shape which can be used to create a whole range of patterns using both line and colour. Patterns can be sequential or rotational, symmetrical or asymmetrical and a huge variety can develop from one letter shape.

General Comments

I was going to write my notes up properly in the sketchbook, but I burnt my finger on a soldering iron trying to cut round a template to make stencil, and it’s awkward to write, so I’ve done this on the computer. As usual, some of the activities seem to have merged into each other, and I’ve gone off at a tangent and done my own thing.Somehow,  I don’t think I’m very good at following instructions!

Plus I didn’t read the Workbook properly, so to start with I used different letters, in different styles and different sizes. Overall my measurements, drawing and cutting were nowhere near as accurate as they should have been, especially with the grids, and even drawing round the letters was tricky, because they kept slipping, and my fingers got in the way. Then, when I tried to make patterns nothing matched up properly, so in the end I stuck mainly with plain, simple shapes. My father, bless him, was a draughtsman, and he would have had fifty fits at what I’ve done! He was a stickler for accuracy and attention to detail on stuff like this. I guess his job meant he had to be – he used to measure the thickness of my lines on geometry homework, then tell me how many degrees out my angles would be because the lines were too thick!

To be honest I really struggled with a lot of this chapter.  I just couldn’t get to grips with making patterns from letters (especially the rotational activities using diagonals, circles and squares as guidelines), and I failed to muster up much enthusiasm – apart from the interlocking ‘s’ shapes, which look a bit like Staffordshire knots.

But then I got to the bit where I had to produce something based on Rosalie Gascoigne’s work, and everything changed. I loved her work, and I loved using bits of a letter in a grid, and I loved the way it looked (even if it could have been more accurate). And at that point I suddenly thought hey, I could do this with recycled paper, so I decided I’d have a go, and things kind of took off from there, and I had a whale of a time playing around, and abandoned what I should have been doing, but I think I tried everything the Workbook suggested, albeit rather briefly.

I did resort to photocopies, for speed and convenience, but working with cut-out shapes from old magazines (bought at a charity shop in Plympton) was a bit of a light bulb moment because suddenly I could clearly see that the activities and techniques I’m learning on this course can all be combined and used elsewhere, not just in one particular exercise (this is something I’ve had slight problems with). So as well as making patterns, I had  a go at using a template as the basis for a glue drawing, and drawing round it with things other than a pencil or fineliner, and using colour wash and wet btush instead of blocking in solid areas with colour, and various other things. Amazing- you could take one letter and run with it for ever more, and never be lost for inspiration!

And I’m pleased that throughout this chapter I’ve been making the effort to use different tools to write notes (including a selection of dip pens and inks).

I think most of the pages from Sketchbook are self-explanatory – I’ve scrawled comments on some of them, and inserted sheets with notes on for others. It’s easy to follow in the sketchbook, but looks a bit odd on the blog, and may not always make sense. Most of the chapter was done at Pympton (near Plymouth) while I was cat and rabbit sitting for my elder daughter and her husband. I took my sketchbook (obviously), and pencils, felt tips, a little palette of water colours and another of those lovely Koh-I-Noor water-based dye discs, and squashed in the plastic cover from my worktop so I wouldn’t make a mess! And my daughter left out brushes, acrylics, glue, colouring pencils and other bits and pieces, so I managed quite well.

Some bits were finished off at home – and the booklet about Rosalie Gascoigne was created at home, because I wanted to do something different, and I set my heart on stitching recycled paper together, though I think this (and some of the other activities I’ve done) should really come under the umbrella of Chapter 5, but it just proves what I was saying about the various techniques being equally applicable to other exercises.

Activity 2.4.1: Creating patterns using a letter template or pattern.

Activity 1Activity 2Activity 3Activity 4Activity 5

I really liked this idea of placing ‘S’ shapes so they overlap – they look a bit like Staffordshire knots. Activity 6Activity 7

The colour reproduction on this is not good – they are pale, but not nearly as pale as they look here. I’m not sure why this has scanned in so ghostlike – especially as the page above is pretty accurate!Activity 8Activity 9

Below is a page where the design went really wrong, so it ended up as an ideas page… Just to remind me of the things you could do with templates…Activity 10


Module 2, Chapter 4, Extra ActivityMake a grid with rectangles or squares which will only take part of the letter template. The grid could have spaces which vary in size. Try out the letter in different ways on these new grids. Look at the work of  artist Rosalie Gascoigne.

I’ve done a separate post about Rosalie Gascoigne – I loved her work, and I loved working with bits of a letter, and I love this, even though it’s messy! That’s a lot of loves – sorry!Activity 11Activity 12

Activity 13

Below is the photocopy, with the grid drawn in. See what I mean about the colour variation on the left? And there’s a nice streaky effect there as well. Couldn’t have done that if I’d tried!Activity 14

And the final photocopy, with the letters outlined in black, as well as the grid. You will notice that the final bits of ink seem to be purple and blue… And in some boxes the printer hasn’t managed to find any substitute colour at all, and has just left them blank, which is actually quite effective because it provides a nice contrast. I would never have thought of doing that – an idea for the future perhaps?Activity 15

Module 2, Chapter 4, Activity 2 

Make a rotational pattern with a letter template using circles and diagonals as guidelines.The notes on the page below refer to the picture below that.

Activity 16

Activity 17

Activity 18

The page below refers to the picture above (they face each other in the sketchbook, so it makes more sense there).Activity 19

Below: This note refers to the page below it (which faces it in the sketchbook).Activity 20

I gave up on this one. Too many lines crossing each on that edging. I should have coloured them all the same, and not tried to create a pattern with several different blues – I thought it would look a bit like one of those interlaced Celtic designs. Just shows how wrong I can be!Activity 21

At this point I felt a little dejected. I wasn’t getting awfully excited about letter templates, apart from those knotted ‘S’ shapes and the fragments in the grid inspired by Rosalie Gascoigne, and I didn’t seem to be getting along very well with them. I wanted to try using the templates with printed pages instead, and to cut those up to make patterns. I have a feeling that what follows really belongs in  Chapter 5, which is all about recycling, but I LOVE working with old magazines, newspapers and books that are falling to pieces. And I like the way the original letter disappears, and you can create something something entirely new. Anyway, here goes..

Detour 1Detour 2Detour 3

As I said in my notes, things got a little out of order, so here is my original page of ‘e’s coloured in with what was, allegedly, a black felt tip… Luckily, I had another which covered it over very successfully.


Still working backwards (sorry)… Before I stuck the grid down I played around with the chopped up pieces of paper to see what I could come up with, photographing my efforts as I went along, so I have a record of what I did. First up, I just tipped them all into a random heap. You can have hours of fun with this one, shifting things round, moving them, piling them up… Brcause it’s 3D you get a textured effect, and with the right lighting you can make nice shadows which more interesting. It’s very ephemeral, like making things from stones on the beach, or leaves in a wood, bu there must be an effective way of making this permanent, with loose edges (not glued down). Perhaps you could just stitch through the centres of the pieces with a small straight stitch, or even a French knot to add texture. Anyway, you can view this from an angle… Which way do you think is best?

Still trying to use all the pieces in random fashion – a spiral. My version of that famous Matisse snail perhaps. Or the centre of a sunflower. Or the sun, or circles in the sand, or one of those nice spirals drawn in rock by prehistoric man… Or just me making a mess!


Next I took out all the pieces that look like part of a circle. And I did this – a lovely sequential pattern which reminds me of old records, and 1950s designs. You could use it as the basis for some quilting (if you have the patience – sadly, I haven’t), or patchwork, or applique, or something more textured using canvas.. Now that appeals to me…


And I rearranged them to create this, which seems to be sequential and symmetrical, if that is possible.


This one is till sequential, but I’ve moved one quarter around and turned all my fragments of ‘e’s into ‘q’s!


And I thought I’d try leaving one square blank, which isn’t as interesting as it could be.


So I removed a different square in each four-square block (selected rotationally) and laid them on a picture in a magazine, but it looks a bit messy.Basically, the backround is too busy.


And another way of arranging the pieces… In each four-square block the pieces are moved round rotationally. I like this one (actually, I like them all).


And for this one I focused on the black shapes rather than the printed areas:

DSCN7900I really enjoyed playing around with these shapes, and could have carried on indefinitely, but at this point the three cats decided I was having so much fun they wanted to join in, and by the time I’d rescued all my bits of paper I thought it was best to stick them into a random square before the cats got at them again!

Really, all these designs were small-scale experiments, a bit like the working sample books needlewomen used to produce in times gone by. You could rearrange the shapes in all kinds of ways, and use different sorts of recycled paper, and decorate the letters, or the gaps between them. And you get a much nicer effect if you stick to using recycled paper, rather than using photocopies. I was trying to corners, which is never a good idea.