Author Archives: chrisharding53

About chrisharding53

I'm a former journalist and sub-editor who loves needlework, reading and writing, and is still searching for the Meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything. Until I find the answer I'm volunteering at an Oxfam Book Shop and learning about Creative Sketchbooks!

2.5: Recycled Papers, The Bigger Picture


Note: There is more work to add in to this post.

Aim: To produce work on a bigger scale.

Intro: When I started this chapter I wanted to work on a larger scale, but it didn’t happen, so before reaching the end I’ve made an effort to do a few pieces that are A3 size (or even slightly larger), just to prove to myself that I can do it. As I’m still finding the big sketchbook awkward to work with I used pages from the Norman Rockwell book, wallpaper, newspaper, an OS map and an old star map calendar as backgrounds, and tried to create designs by enlarging on some of my small samples, and adding hand and machine stitching. Finally I sloshed paint or gesso over the surfaces so, hopefully, they will be suitable for adding printed letters in Chapter 6.

Additionally, for two of the pages I used some of the ‘waste’ paper where I’d tried stitches and tensions etc at the very beginning, and messed up. I stitched them to big sheets of paper, and added more stitching and papers and embellishments. And I’ve also created a piece for 2.5.2 tearing or cutting headlines and large letters from magazines, newspapers and other used papers, then pasting them on to a sheet of newspaper, leaving gaps to allow the smaller print to show through.

Record Making: I’ve tried to be better organised, because most of this chapter is a bit of a muddle, and I took photos and made notes as I went along, so I’ve got a record of my working methods, with the various stages and some close-ups. And I’ve numbered the pictures and notes. I’ve worked on the computer for these, with print-outs of the text and photographs stored in an envelope.

Observations: I found it needed a bit of thought on how I was going to fill all that space Just launching into a design and hoping it would be OK was no good – I really did need some kind of plan so I knew what I was using, where the pieces of paper would go, and whether it would all fit together and look OK. But it was nowhere near as scary as I feared. In fact, once I got going with the bigger pieces I really enjoyed myself, especially with repeat patterns where, much as I hate to admit it, it was nice to have more space!

Covering the work with paint/gesso took a bit of courage – I liked my creations the way they were, and I thought I might wreck them, but once I made a start it was OK. Some pieces look better painted than others, and I’ve still got my photos of the original work to look at. Having done the painting I’m quite happy to print over the surfaces for Chapter 6, though I’m not sure how well some of the surfaces will accept ptint – and I’m planning to paint the backs (the messy stitching looks quite interesting), or perhaps bond painted dressmaking tissue paper on, so I can print both sides – then I can chop the papers up to make small stitched books for Chapter 10.

Overall I was surprised at how much I enjoyed working on a bigger scale, and how easy it turned out to be, and I quite like the results, so I’m really glad I forced myself to do this!

1. Odds, Ends and Experiments


Pic 1.1, Odds, Ends and Experiments (clockwise from top left), using page from old Norman Rockwell book as base (it is slightly bigger than A3). The free style stitching is done on the Pfaff machine and isn’t very neat, and these were all experiments and scraps.

  • Textured wallpaper scrap, stitched to bakground, plus Xpandaprint, which I spread too thick and tried to print into after heating (I’d never used it before  – next time I’ll scrape it on, scrape it off, put the excess back in the jar, then heat it). Anyway, I pressed a round rubber stamp into the warm, expanded Xpandaprint, then used the residue on the stamp to print four more circles. Not sure that adding texture to textured paper is ideal, but I’d like to experiment more with raising surfaces. Then more free machine stitching over paper and Xpandaprint to bond it to background with white and silver thread.
  • Torn silver paper from Christmas chocolates free machine zig zagged to textured wallpaper, working directly on to background paper. I quite like this, but if I’d glued the silver paper and pressed it all over, it might have shown the texture beneath, which would have been much nicer. You can see where I changed to a bigger needle on the right hand side, but I didn’t like the effect.
  • Handstitching on magazine papers with embroidery thread – this was the first thing I did for this chapter and it wasn’t very successful, but I kept it to remind myself of what not to do, so I’ve free machined it to the background.
  • Bondaweb and silver transfer foil (the gold is reflection from the light) on textured wallpaper. If I did this again I would paint the surface and the Bondaweb, and add tissue or something as well, but I like the way the foil sticks to the raised bits of the wallpaper.
  • Rubber stamp design on a paper bag, torn into circle, with torn edges, stitched to textured wallpaper, trying to get 3D effect. Not successful. Needs to be bigger and bolder – would stiffer paper be  better?
  • Torn magazine strips. No idea what glue I used. Free machine stitched to backing.Not very exciting, but does the job.
  • Centre – practising couching, using thick knitting wool and free machine zig zig to make a grid. Love this. It was fun, and I like the effect.. Must try it again with different threads in machine, to attach different cords/threads to different surfaces. I could have used this to link the different sections on this page together to try and get a more unified look.The stitching is a bit messy – I’m still having problems with tension and moving the paper at the right speed.
  • Pix 1.2 to 1.8 are close-ups of the individual sections.

Pic 1.2


Pic 1.3


Pic 1.4


Pic 1.5


Pic 1.6


Pic 1.7


Pic 1.8

Pic 1.9, Painted with white emulsion:


Pic 1.9, Painted with emulsion.

  • I have to admit my heart sank after I painted this with white emulsion, but I left it while I went to my mother, and when I came back two days later it looked OK. The paint dried more transparent than I expected, and the textured areas, especially the stitching, are great – better than before I think, because the paint-coated threads look thicker, and they contrast nicely with the smoother parts, and there are some areas of print which look good against the white. It looks better in reality than it does in the photo.
  • It doesn’t show well in the photo, but the textured wallpaper still looks good, quite a bit of the silver foil shines through, and the 4  Xpandaprint circular prints actually look better than they did before – more defined I think, so that’s a bonus.
  • A coating of paint seemed to improve the circle with the torn edges – it stiffened the paper a little. But if I were to pursue this idea it needs a lot more thought.
  • I was disappointed that the silver paper took the paint – I thought it would act as a resist and stay silver, but bits, especially along the torn edges, show quite well, as does the stitching between them, and I love the areas where I changed to a bigger needle – it looks much better than it did to start with, and the holes look like part of the design. Wish I’d left it in for everything!
  • The torn magazine strips didn’t take the paint particularly well. I’ve noticed before that coloured print on shiny magazine paper sometimes acts as a resist, and there was quite a bit of glue on parts of it, which may also have repelled the paint.
  • The couched wool threads have changed texture completely and are now much stiffer and kind of hairy. I think I liked them better as they were.
  • The silver threads have disappeared, and I liked them. Ah well, these things happen.
  • Would it have been better with patchier or thinner paint? Should I add some colour?

Pic 1.10: Part of the other side. Messy, but too nice to ignore. The threads seem thicker, and the holes, which are smooth edged on the right side, have a small ridge around them where the needle punches through.

2. Branching Out:


Pic 2.1: Branching Out.

Pic 2.1, Branching Out: This is a repeat pattern using the shape I made earlier on in Chapter 5 by cropping, enlarging and cut out from a photograph of trees.

  • Shapes  cut from  page of text from the Norman Rockwell book.
  • Pieces stitched on to  sample of thick, shiny, vinyl wallpaper, with a design of bricks.
  • Used some of the pre-set embroidery patterns on the Singer machine (I have two machines, both cheap). Tension continues to be a problem. There’s one place where the machine jammed up and the thread broke. so I left it with holes and glued it down.
  • I had problems stitching this initially, so I slackened the top tension, used a size 90 needle, and put horticultural fleece as a backing to stabilise things.
  • I like the contrast of the light shapes against the darker red/brown background, and between the more organic shapes and embroidery and the geometric background.
  • The stitching on the back should show up nicely if it’s painted or covered in tissue. So I’ll have two surfaces to print on, and can cut it up to make little stitched books.

Pic 2.2: I had problems with tension. On this bit the machine jammed and the thread broke, so I carried on ‘stitching’ holes, because I liked them, and I’ve stuck it down with glue.


Pic 2.3: I liked the satin stitch ‘leaves’ but they didn’t like me! Was fine on the straight, but couldn’t get it to change direction, so I abandoned it.


Pic 2.4: The reverse. In theory this should look fine painted, or covered in tissue, or foiled.

Pic 2.5, Branching Out: Painting the surface.


Pic 2.5: Left column painted with white gesso; middle, painted with pink and white acrylic paint; right, old brown dressmaking pattern bonded to work with gloss acrylic medium – the bottom shape had pink acrylic paint applied to the surface of the work before the tissue was applied, and I applied pink transfer foil to the shape above that before the tissue.

Pic 2.5, Branching Out, Painting the Surface:

  • I tried different paint techniques because I wanted to see how the wallpaper reacted. I was pleased it took the paint so well.
  • Gesso gives a good cover, but not as dense as emulsion (emulsion covers threads better).
  • Pink and white acrylic paints both dried quite transparent, so you can see the original pattern quite clearly.
  • Brown tissue dressmaking pattern bonded to surface with acrylic medium (from an idea in Fabulous Surfaces, by Lynda Monk). This is gorgeous, and I love it. I brushed the surface with gel, laid the tissue over the top, and rubbed it all over, really hard, and the tissue went transparent!!!!! I didn’t get this effect with a glue stick, or PVA, or Bondaweb. Tried it first with matt medium, which didn’t look anything special, then with gloss, which she says is better, and she’s right. So I applied pink acrylic paint to one little section, and the remnants of some pink transfer foil  to another bit (rubbing it with a metal spoon). And when it was all dry and I’d peeled off the backing sheet from the foil, I stuck tissue over the top with gloss gel medium. The photo doesn’t do justice to this, because the tissue lets lets the background shapes and colours show, and the pink acrylic and foil really glow, and the surface looks polished rather than glossy.

Pic 2.6: Close-up showing dressmaking pattern bonded over paint and foil.


Pic 2.7: Close-up showing pink and white acrylic.


Pic 2.8: Close-up of gesso.

Pic 3, Wavy Weaving


Pic 3.1, I drew wavy lines on two sheets of paper, then cut them out and wove them together. Originally I was going to use the other side of the piece as the right side, but I like the effect of my drawn lines, which are still visible, and the way the picture has been broken up. I’m pleased with this, although the outer edges went a bit haywire, and I’ve used blobs of glue to hold them together.


2.5, Additional Activity: Tom Phillips, A Humument


Artist Tom Phillips

This is an additional activity about artist Tom Phillips and A Humument, his 50-year altered book  venture, which is an epic undertaking, and well worth looking at while working on 2.5 and doing things with recycled papers.

Way back in November 1966 Phillips was rooting around in a second-hand shop at Peckham Rye (where, as I’m sure everyone knows,  William Blake saw an Angel in a tree). Phillips was looking for a book – he told a friend  he would buy the first threepenny volume he found, and use it for a long-term art project, and that’s exactly what he did. But  at that stage he can have had no inkling of just how long the project would last, or how much it would influence his other work.

The book Phillips bought was A Human Document, penned by long forgotten author WH Mallock, and published in 1892 for the princely sum of three and six. Mallock appears to have been a somewhat curmudgeonly and humourless man, whose view on Life, the Universe and Everything was vastly different to Tom’s outlook.


The fifth edition of the book – the one I have.

But despite that, his book provided limitless inspiration for the next 50 years.”Once I got my prize home I found that page after randomly opened page revealed that I had stumbled upon a treasure,” says Phillips on his website. “The book’s rechristening resulted from another chance discovery. By folding one page in half and turning it back to reveal half of the following page, the running title at the top abridged itself to A HUMUMENT, an earthy word with echoes of humanity and monument as well as a sense of something hewn; or exhumed to end up in the muniment rooms of the archived world. I like even the effortful sound of it, pronounced as I prefer, HEW-MEW-MENT.”

Tom Phillips began ‘reworking’ the book, starting with page 33. Initially he kept things simple, leaving some words unaltered, obliterating others with ink, and allowing the remainder to be visible beneath his hatched lines.But gradually his work became more complex. He even created a ‘hero’ who interacts with the characters in the novel. “Since the W in WH Mallock stands for William, its commonplace short form, Bill, would provide a good matey name for his humdrum alter ego,” Phillips explains. “When I chanced on ‘bill’ it appeared next to the word ‘together’ and thus the downmarket and blokeish name Bill Toge was born. It became a rule that Toge should appear wherever the words ‘together’ or ‘altogether’ occurred.”


The first page – P33 – as it was originally created.

The resulting ‘treated’ book was published in 1973 by Tetrad Press, but it was a small print run,  and the artist continued to work on his pages, making changes, covering things up, revealing new words and thoughts, and generally revising and developing his ideas. He worked on his original copy of A Human Document without destroying  its pages,  but for later revisions he acquired other copies of Mallock’s book, and used just one side of a page, mounted on acid-free paper. He kept notes detailing alterations, along with dates, preliminary drawings and the gathering of sources, and employed a variety of artistic techniques, such as painting, collage and cut-outs. A few pages remained as he originally created them, but most were altered.

The first edition available for sale to the general public was finally  issued by Thames & Hudson in 1980. Five more updated, reworked editions followed, and the final page of the final edition (which came out last year) incorporates a photograph of the grave of William Hurrell Mallock, who died in Wincanton in 1923. “I failed to find the grave in 1990 but it was eventually discovered and photographed by Patrick Wildgust,” says Phillips. “Partly hidden by bushes it had itself become treated by wear and gathering moss. On the last days work on A Humument in 2016 I was thus able to incorporate that photograph into p367 and finish my strange labour.


The updated version of P33 as it appears in my edition of the book – this image is taken from Tom Phillips’ website and shows part of the original design, viewed through a burnt hole in an extracted page. The quote about failing better is from playwright Samuel Beckett, written a long time after Mallock’s book first appeared.

Throughout his endeavours Phillips searched  first for suitable text, and that influenced his imagery. “I plundered, mined and undermined its text to make it yield the ghosts of other possible stories, scenes, poems, erotic incidents and surrealist catastrophes which seemed to lurk within its wall of words,” he explains in his original introduction. “As I worked on it, I replaced the text I’d stripped away with visual images of all kinds. I began to tell and depict, among other memories, dreams and reflections, the sad story of Bill Toge, one of love’s casualties.”

Phillips never worked on pages for A Humument in numerical order. He describes his creation as ‘a dispersed narrative with more than one possible order’, saying it is more like a pack of cards than a continuous tale. And there is never one narrator, or even a reliable narrator. He took parts of words to make other words, and revelled in the opportunity to create a nonsense vocabulary. However, he did set some rules, the most important of which was that Mallock’s words could not moved to suit his purpose – they had to remain in their printed positions on the pages.”Where they are joined to make some poetic sense or continuity of meaning, they are linked via the often meandering rivers in the typography,” he adds.


This is  a screenprint of P168, known as Railings, taken from Tom Phillipos’ website, where some images from the book can be purchased.

At the outset he intended to keep outside material at bay. But gradually fragments from  A  Humument made their way into almost everything he did, so it became a two-way process, and he included motifs and collaged imagery from his other work.  It seems to have been a kind of symbiotic relationship, where the various works he was engaged with fed off and enriched each other, and the forgotten Victorian classic informed much of Phillips’ other work, including a decorated skull, fictitious globes, and an opera, Irma, telling the story of Mallock’s heroine.

The Humument is a strange book, obviously an artwork, but also part poem, and part story, drawing on philosophy, myths, history, art, architecture, literature, religion, popular culture, modern times, and all sorts of other things. Phillips is very erudite, and widely read, with a tremendous breadth of knowledge, and wide-ranging interests and skills.  He is a kind of Renaissance Man for our age – one of these people who does lots of things, and does them all extremely well. He’s a renowned musician, composer and writer, as well as a highly acclaimed artist working in many different mediums – painting portraits (Samuel Beckett and Iris Murdoch are among his subjects) and abstracts, and creating sculpture, mosaics, tapestries, and wire frame objects. His work can be found in every day places like the streets of Peckham, and in grand buildings like Westminster Cathedral and Westminster Abbey.


Page 4, or ‘nine eleven’, is Phillips’ take on the attack on New York’s twin towers – not so much a tribute as a reflection. It incorporates a postcard of King Kong with the World Trade Centre and a version of Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Children. Other influences include  a section of the Inferno where Dante compares the giant Anteus with the tall, narrow towers of Florence. And, according to Phillips, the accompanying Roman numerals ‘make a twinning palindome’.

Born in 1937, in Clapham, Phillips showed an outstanding ability for art and music at a very young age. After studying at Oxford he attended Camberwell School of Art, where he was taught by Frank Auerbach . He himself taught for a time (apparently he was a big influence on musician Brian Eno who was one of his students), and as demand for his artwork increased, awards and accolades stacked up.

In 1983 he was awarded the Frances Williams Memorial Prize for his illustration and new translation of Dante’s Inferno. Additionally, he and Peter Greenaway won the Italia Prize  for their TV version of the Inferno. In 1984 Phillips was elected to the Royal Academy in 1984, chairing its Library and its Exhibition Committee from 1995 to 2007. He was a trustee for the National Portrait Gallery and the British Museum, and was awarded a Commander of the British Empire for services to the Arts in 2002.


Page 363  is one of my favourite images from the book .

If you want to know more about Tom Phillips and A Humument, his website at is brilliant. I came across him about 18 months ago when a friend of a friend wrote a review on a book blog, and I was so intrigued I bought the book (the 5th edition). I picked up a second-hand copy fairly cheaply, but prices seem to have risen since then. I don’t like all the pages, but it is always interesting. You don’t have to view it as a conventional book (indeed, I’m not at all sure that you could – or should). I’m knocked out by the scale of the concept, and I loved reading the artist’s account of how he approached this project, and how he actually worked on it. Some parts are funny, others are sad, and bits are rather rude. There’s no plot as such, but there is a sort of story about Bill Toge, alongside the parts of Mallock’s novel that remain visible. And it’s packed with thoughts about life, art, the universe – you can have fun spotting the quotes that Phillips has strung together, making Mallock’s words pre-echo Beckett, Virgil, EM Forster and a host of others. And there are references to his own life, and to world events. Some pages are heavily worked with bright, bold colours or collaged materials, whereas others are paler and less ornamented, and the words of the original show through more clearly. And the style varies – you find a page with a beautifully detailed portrait, and next to that might be a cartoony sort of picture, or something that looks as if it belongs in a comic, or vibrant geometric shapes, or delicate pastel swirls, or lines and circles. In theory it’s the sort of thing I hate, but in actuality I loved it – it’s like being sucked into an alternative  world. It’s beguiling says Adam Smyth in a London Review of Books article. And he’s right. That’s exactly what it is. Beguiling. No need for all those other words I’ve written at all!


Page 353 – first of all I though these were fluffy clouds, but when you look at the words they are obviously roses.

PS: Please don’t ask why I like Tom Phillips, but not Will Ashford, because I don’t know!

PPS: I really like a lot of his other work, and much of it also incorporates text – words and letters are obviously very important to him. Some of it can be seen on the website of the Flowers Gallery which handles his work.  And there is more at the ever excellent Tate website although, sadly, very little is on public display in the galleries, and you have to make an appointment to view.


Tom Phillips:

Flowers Gallery:


2.5, Extra Activity: Will Ashford


One of Will Ashford’s altered pages .

Recycled paper can be embellished by adding things like more layers of paper, colour, drawings, prints, and even stitching. You can cover the text on the base sheet and create soinething completely – but you can also create added interest by letting a word, phrase, or chunk of text show through paint, or leaving some of it exposed,  to emphasis a point, or compose a new message. It’s a technique that some artists use to great effect.

Will Ashford, for example, is a self-taught American artist who currently works with pages from old books. A dyslexic, he has always been fascinated by words. “I rescue, salvage, and recycle other people’s words,” he explains on his website.“Browsing through garage sales, street markets and used bookstores I search for interesting, preferably discarded, old books. When I find a good candidate I explore every page.  Like an archaeologist I hunt for the words that speak to me with new meaning. Intuitively, one word at a time, they turn into a kind of haiku or philosophical poetry that I can call my own.”


Artist Will Ashford.

Somewhere along the way, he explains, images start to invent themselves. “Using graphite, and or India ink, to highlight or obscure my words; I create the image of that invention. Though I strive to make each document visually engaging, I find it is the words that I value most,” he adds. He also uses photocopies and a computer as he works on his words and images, and what finally appears may be nothing like the earlier versions.

His work features human figures, objects, and lots of swirls, circles and flowing lines. Much of it seems to be in black, and he obviously selects the exposed words very carefully, to fit his theme and express his thoughts. Do they relate to the theme of the original book,  I wonder, or does he convey a brand new thought?
willashford-thefaceishowtheworldorHe discusses his methods in an interview on the Create Mixed Media website (which was previously published in The Mixed Media Artist copyright 2013 by Seth Apter, and was republished courtesy of and North Light Books, so I hope that don’t mind me using bits from it). Here he talks about one particular picture, The Face I Show the World: In a Portrait or The Likeness of a Man This image, he says, started with a page from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay on art, which he selected because the words ‘in a portrait’ appeared at the top of the page.”I had to find the rest of the words, and this took several tries over many days,” he adds. He was looking for words that might tell another story, and thought the silhouette was an obvious choice. “I removed all of the poem’s words that had been printed on the right side of the main text and at the same time carefully left behind all of the letter o’s as well as all of the dots and periods. From this I created a new visual poem that helped maintain the visual composition of the original page” he explains.


To be honest, I’m not sure that my researches have left me any the wiser. I don’t think I understand his creative process, and the end results didn’t do a lot for me, although the umbrella in the rain illustration in the Distant Stitch Workbook is OK. If we’re talking about altered books I prefer Tom Phillips’ The Humument, and he deserves a post all of hos own.

One final comment on Will Ashford: he seems, over the years, to have worked his way through a number of different styles. Back in the 1979 when he was 31 he was a ‘concept artist’. At that time his best known work was a community project, where people helped him lay fertiliser on a Californian hillside to form a living portrait of Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic Mona Lisa. Everyone sat back and waited for the grass to grow and, lo and behold, there was Mona Lisa in shades of green, because the grass grew darker in the fertlised areas. Purists may say this is gardening, not art, but oddly enough I like it better than his altered books. It’s wacky, and I’ve always had a weakness for wacky, and gardening is a form of art, and I like the community aspect of this. And people spend hours cutting lawns into stripes (they still do it on the Lower Lawn at Tamworth Castle). So what’s wrong with a grass reproduction of the Mona Lisa?


Stripes in the lawn: This is one of my ‘strips’ photos, and I can’t resist using it here, because it would look so much nicer with a picture in the grass – a Saxon Warrior perhaps, to go with the 3D Saxon Warrior made of flowers which stands up by the Castle.

Module 2, Chapter 5: Weaving


Weaving This was fantastic, and turned out to be very addictive – I’ve loved this chapter, but I think I enjoyed this more than anything. I started off quite simply, weaving strips of paper cut from two sheets of paper left over from some monoprinting experiments I did earlier in the year, using a home-made gelatin printing plate and very bright, very thick acrylic paints. At the time I didn’t like the effect on these papers, but when I took another look at them I changed my mind, so I cut them up and wove them together. I was going to try adding some stitching, but I left it as it is, because the colours are bold and I don’t think stitching will add anything, and I like it as it is. The colours are actually far more vibrant than they look here – strong reds, oranges, pinks and purples.


Then I wove strips from a magazine page, making a nice neat, square, and used blobs of glue to hold things together before stitching over the edges with the embroidery foot on the machine and a fancy zig-zag (it’s made up of little stitches, rather than one big one). I tried to vary the width and length of the stitches, because I wanted them to look looser and untidy as a contrast against the rigid lines of the weaving. I worked on the red side it is red, not pink as it looks here), but when I turned it over I liked the other side as well, so I’ve pictured both.


Neat woven squares are fine as far as they go, but I wanted to go a bit further, so next up I tried weaving torn strips from an OS map and a shiny magazine page, leaving gaps, and trying to lay the strips at angles, rather then straight. A couple of pieces tore, but I left them, and carried on. I used blobs of glue to hold it together, and was going to glue it on to a sketchbook page just like that, but I wondered if I could get lacy effects in the holes between the strips if I machine stitched over it. I used a straight stitch with a normal foot, and left threads hanging.  To be honest it looks a bit messy, but I really like this. I was going to just stitch over the strips where the gaps were, but I found the whole thing needed anchoring by stitching along the continuous bits of paper first. It had a tendency for the raggedy edges of the paper to catch on the feedplate. On reflection I wonder if the embroidery foot might have been better, with the feed dogs down. I did think of ironing Bondaweb to the back, but I wanted the holes as holes. Is there something like soluble film that isn’t soluble but will disappear without getting wet? The holes would show up better if I’d photographed it on coloured paper, but you get the general affect.


At this point I spotted a children’s knitting frame in a charity shop. It’s a pink plastic rectangle, about 9 inches in height and 6.5 inches wide, and didn’t have any instructions with it, but there are hooks at each end, and I think it works on the same principle as a knitting dolly, so you wind wool round the hooks on one edge, and keep lifting it over, to form stitches. But as I looked at it I had one of my ‘What If…’ moments so I bought it, and wound wool round the hooks at each end to form the warp thread, and used flat strips of paper for the weft. The wool I used wasn’t ideal for threading up a loom, because I couldn’t get a tight enough tension on it, so when I removed the finished weaving it was very loose. I machine stitched a grid all over it (with straight stitch) to hold its shape and keep everything together. Overall I’m quite pleased with the effect – I think it works quite well, and the red cotton looks OK with the thick red wool.


Then I tried it again, with blue ‘paper string’ for my warp thread which, surprisingly, stayed nice and taut, with shredded pages from an old book for the weft. I hand stitched all round the edges with blue thread before I took it off my ‘loom’, and trimmed the side edges a bit, and it’s made a nice little mat – it could almost be a bot of woven fabric. I’m really pleased with this.


This is here I got completely carried away, and use thin copper wire for the warp, and  narrow strips of newspaper and tissue paper for the weft, and I wove stripes, in the different papers, using my fingers and a comb to scrunch the rows up as I went along.I had to experiment a bit, because you need a thinnish, softishish paper – anything too thick or shiny tears when you try to scrunch it up, and it’s better to push each row up as you go along . And you need to cut the strips fairly narrow – too wide and they don’t scrunch up very successfully. The following photo shows the little ‘loom’ threaded up with wire:


I built up bands of colour by having lots of strips of one colour. It was tricky to work, but it is just fabulous. I love, love, love it. It is very textured, and the text on the newspaper strips disappears into speckles and lines, until it looks (and feels) almost like tweed, with the copper wire glinting through it.

DSCN8711 (2).JPG

The downside on this is the edges…. I have no idea what to do with them!  There are a lot of strips of paper, and the ends are are all bunched up and very thick… And when I took it off the frame the warp threads at the 2 edge sprang out sideways….  I’ve threaded them (very untidily) through the wires at back of work, bent the loops over, and left the paper edges as a kind of fringe. I’m scared of wrecking it if I try to stitch it (and it’s a bit thick and bulky to go through the machine) but it seems to be quite stable.This next photo shows what I’ve done with the wires on the back, and gives a close-up of the texture.


On all the piece I wove on this frame I worked mainly with my fingers. I tried using a plastic drinks stirrer as a shuttle for each strip (because it looked like a needle, with a long thin hole at one end) but it was too flexible, and large wool needles (metal and plastic) didn’t have a big enough hole. I would love to have another go this, and see if I could improvise some kind of shuttle or needle for the weft, and a heddle bar for the warp – slits cut in a strip of balsa or stiff card might work. I need to think about those edges though!

Still in ‘What If…’ mode, I wove bits of newspaper and magazine pages through an orange bag and stitched the end result to an oddment of thick khadi paper. I loved working on this, although it was quite fiddly, because  the orange bag did not seem to be evenly made, and as I worked it pulled every which way! And the paper strips are easier to thread if they are cut straight – otherwise torn edges get caught up in the mesh and twist and then they tear. I like the final result, but I wish I’d torn the backing paper to an irregular shape, or burnt the edges  or something, and left bits of orange bag and paper hanging over the edges, to make it look more raggedy.


I did wonder if threading strips of paper (or anything else) through mesh counts as weaving, but I love the effect, and I am recycling paper and creating a new surface. Anyway, I’ve also played around with black, plastic garden mesh, which distorts to a rhomboid when cut to a square. Again, rough edges of torn strips of paper catch and tear on the mesh. This one is a small, unfinished sample, where the strips were woven properly though alternate holes. I ironed light-weight Vilene to the back, as a stabiliser, and started stitching some of the set patterns on the sewing machine,  but it’s all a bit too busy.


And finally, a woven heart-shaped basket! My grandmother used to make these when my brother and I were small – apparently when she was a child in Norway they used to make them, fill them with sweets and hang them on the Christmas tree. Pictures aren’t very good, but you can see both sides.

NB: I kept notes as I went along, so I’ve keyed them in for this post and used photos of my work, asI am keeping all the woven pieces in a box, partly because I don’t want them to get crushed in the Sketchbook, and partly because I want go back and add some embroidery on some of them.

Module 2, Chapter 5 (Mainly Stitched Shapes)


Everything in this chapter seems to have got muddled up, and I’ve hopped backwards and forwards, and experimented, and I haven’t put activity numbers on anything, but I have been ticking things off my check list, and I think I’m covering everything. The A3 pages are still scanned in in two parts because I haven’t found a satisfactory way of dealing with them.

This page was really to practice stitching with the embroidery foot on and the feed dogs down, and I was pleased with it.


More stitching, on layers of newspaper.


Trying to stitching in interlocking circles. I’ve used lots of strips in neat, tidy arrangements, but I wanted to try something different, so I used long thin strips of tissue paper (left over from my elder daughter’s wedding), and sandwiched it between two layers of Bondaweb, with a newspaper backing. Then I used the embroidery foot to stich interlocking circle-like shapes to hold it all down, in various shades of purple thread (darkest first). Then I used silver metallic thread on top, which worked quite well and was surprisingly easy to use – I thought if would be tricky to use in the machine.Would love to try this with something like soluble film, but that would be no good, because you couldn’t get the paper wet.


Next up, Layers of newspaper and tissue, stitched in straight lines, then cut between the rows of stitching with sharp scissors to create a chenille effect. These samples were bigger to start with, but I got a bit over-enthusiastic with the scissors! And they got flattened when I scanned them – the cut edges stand up beautifully when you rub a soft brush over them.




The next page has lots of little squares of different papers stitched to newspaper, withe embroidery foot, using different tensions and techniques. As I went along I made some very hasty notes ob an old notepad, so I stuck them in the Sketchbook. I could have been a bit more organised in my approach.mainly-stitch-11mainly-stitch-12

Who remembers making rows of little dancing girls, all holding hands, from paper?

Or Snowflakes? I was trying to practice stitching spirals, on different kinds of paper, but I think they would have looked better with star-like straight lines through each point. On the plus side, I have managed to cover an A3 sheet of paper!!! It’s a sheet from a huge book on Norman Rockwell, which was destined for the recycling sacks in Oxfam because no-one wanted it.





Next up… Hand stitching on paper. Loved this, and kept notes! Snowflakes led to experiments cutting holes in other shapes.  I cut a rectangle from the cover of a manuscript sheet music book, then folded it and cut shapes to make diamonds when it was unfolded. I was going to stitch it straight into the sketchbook but, as I’ve said before, an A3 sketchbook is very cumbersome to work with, so I cut a page out. As it was still unwieldy I cut it in half again, so I’m still working on a much smaller scale than I’d planned.

I used soft embroidery thread to stitch French knots, with a tapestry needle, because it had a big eye which was easy to thread, but it was like sewing with a poker and was really difficult to push or pull through the paper – making holes beforehand might have made it easier. And, should anyone wonder, although tapestry needles have blunt ends, they can inflict a surprising amount of damage to fingers and thumbs…

Then I used ordinary sewing thread to make a kind of star stitch over the diamond holes, with a nice, sharp, pointed needle which enabled me to make holes from the front as I went along, so it was easier to pull thread through from the back of the work. The back is a mess. Lots of knots, and the odd blob of glue to keep ends from unravelling – but no-one is going to see it. When I’d finished I had a brainstorm and trimmed off all the excess sketchbook page, which was silly, because it was supposed to be a vital part of my work.

Anyway, in the interests on experimentation I brushed watered-down white acrylic over it, but it didn’t make much impact, so I let the stitched paper dry, then used the paint straight from the tube, but the stitching is still black. However, I’m not sure if I like the effect, but I might add more paint. I think a similar design with a different colour background would be better.

I kept the cut-out diamonds, cut them all in half to make triangles, then used doubled purple sewing thread and French knots (again) to stich them to layers of a brown napkin made from recycled paper (I accidently took more than I needed when I had some coffee in a café!). I sewed them in a random pattern (which means there is no pattern), and used one French on each, so the edges curled up a little, and it looked quite textured, and I enjoyed doing this – the napkin was actually quite easy to sew, as it handled more like fabric, and was very soft. However, painting it may have been a mistake. Thick acrylic just went patchy and was difficult to paint on, while watered-down acrylic soaks into the paper napkins. And it stuck my little triangles down, but I’ve managed to prise some of them loose! ! On reflection, I wonder if a different type of paint would be better. Emulsion is probably too thick, but gesso might have worked.


Stitched and glued shapes:


And shapes/patterns with counterchange. This was SUCH fun when I worked out what I was doing.And I made notes (again!). I like the arched shapes cut from an OS map and a magazine page If you put it the other way round, with the small shapes at the top, you have a tree. This way they look like some of  the The Arches (the railway viaduct which is very much a feature of Tamworth), viewed diagonally as they cross the River Anker and surrounding land.


This one was done with magazine pages, and I love it – I want some wallpaper with a design like this…


The design above was created from newspaper and magazine pages.

The next page is samples, to see if this technique works with other shapes, like circles, and it does, but I think it’s best left simple. Would love to use this method to design patchwork, or embroidery.


The two pictures for the next page are quite self-explanatory – because I was looking at ways of creating patterns with paper, rather than simply using strips or squares, I wanted to try using a bit from a photo I’d taken. I enjoyed the process and, on the whole I’m quite pleased with the result. I kept it really simple, but I’d like to develop this idea, and try something more complicated, and add stitching.


The next few pieces are all made by using large jigsaw pieces as templates for my shapes – I had an idea of what I wanted to do, and bought a children’s puzzle from a charity shop. They’re fun shapes to work with, because you can actually use them to make a picture or, better still you can mess around with them – take some out to leave gaps, or use different papers, so when they’re joined they make no sense, or just replace one or two pieces. I stitched round them to attach them to backing paper, and they are a bit fiddly, but I like the effect. The first was a nightmare though – the picture on the paper I cut up was just too strong, and I couldn’t see what I was doing, so I gave up and glued the pieces into shape.




I’ve cropped and enlarged the piece with the holes in, but they still don’t show very well.

mainly-stitch-38-2And now for an experiment:


I enjoyed doing this soooo much. It’s not perfect, and there are things I would do differently next time around, and the stitching could be better, and I’m not sure if it needed more stitching, or less stitching, and a touch of a contrasting colour might have been good., and you can’t really see  that it’s done with paper. But it ended up looking and feeling like fabric, which is quite magical, and I love it the way it is. I’ve transformed flat smooth papers into a shimmering textured surface, with lovely, bright, vibrant colours – hot pink, copper and orange, and it gleams and glitters, and glistens but, sadly,  it doesn’t show up very well in photos or scans. However, I’ve downloaded a photograph of the finished piece as well, in the hopes that it might look slightly better than the scan.dscn9351




Module 2, Chapter 5: Additional Activity – Helen Edwards


This is my rather feeble effort at producing something similar to something I saw by textile artist Helen Edwards. This is the sample with little squares stitched on individually.

Back in the summer, while I was cat and rabbit sitting for my Elder Daughter in Plymouth, I popped into 45 Southside, which is a lovely little shop/gallery in The Barbican, and spotted some fabulous stitched paper art by Devon-based multi-media artist Helen Edwards. I like the way she is recycling paper, and that grid-like formation of squares – a little like Rosalie Gascoigne perhaps, but not so raw. Anyway, Iwas worried about taking photographs there, so I took pictures off a website (her’s, or the shop’s, or – sorry, but I didn’t take proper notes and can’t remember which).


Stitched paper artwork by Helen Edwards. This was my favourite. I love the colour blue, and I thought this worked really well with just blue and white. It reminded me of blue and white china, although the subject matter is different.



‘Beano’, a stitched paper artwork by Helen Edwards

They’re about 15 inches x 18 inches, and are created out of pages from books, mainly comic book annuals I think, but she also recycles things like music manuscripts. They consist of a series of squares, overlaid with other squares, which are flapped back at the corners to form triangles, turning the lower squares into diamonds. The layers are stitched, and on some of the works the threads hang loose. It is difficult to see exactly how the base layer is created – it looks as if it’s made from lots of square rather than a single picture, and the folded layer also appears to be constructed from lots of small pieces. Perhaps there is some kind of third layer under the other two, to stabilise everything. The flapped-back triangles make it three-dimensional – some of them stand upright, some lie almost flat, others are at an angle, and they create interesting shadows (though this may be unintentional, and probably depends on the position and quality of the lighting wherever they are hung). You don’t get the full effect from a photograph, but they really caught my imagination, and although I was still on Chapter 4 at the time, I thought they would tie in nicely with Chapter 5, so I did a bit of research.

I  couldn’t find much about her, but there’s an interesting interview on in which she says: “I feel fortunate that I had the chance to train formally in Art/Design and Contemporary Craft in my forties, following a rewarding 21 year career as a Speech and Language Therapist. During this training I realised how much I loved texture, pattern and construction. I was encouraged to handle many different materials and this has carried through into my work today. The tactile quality of my pieces is as important as the visual quality.”

A member of the Society of Designer Craftsmen and the Devon Guild of Craftsmen, she works with a huge range of artistic techniques and materials, including metal, textiles and ceramics. You can see some of her work at her website.


‘Strongheart’, a stitched paper artwork by Helen Edwards.


‘I can give you the starlight’, stitched paper artwork by Helen Edwards. You can see the hanging threads quite clearly in this one. It wasn’t in the shop but I found it online, and included it here because I think it’s beautiful.

I thought I would have a go at something similar, but decided it would have to be much simpler, so I used a page from a magazine as my base, and this wrapping paper for my top layer, because I thought the squares were fairly regular and would be easy.


But the squares were not very square, and trying to stitch on paper that has a stitched design is a big mistake! Anyway,  I left the magazine page base as it was, then used the embroidery foot on the sewing machine to stitch the wrapping paper to it around the edges, and around some squares, then used a small pair of sharp scissors to cut diagonal lines through the top layer of each square on the grid. It’s actually very difficult to pierce the top layer of paper without cutting the lower layer – the sample ended up much smaller than it started, because I mutilated quite a bit of it!


This is the only bit of the original sample fit to be seen! Basically I stitched two layers of paper together, then slashed a cross in the centre of each square to make four smaller squares in each one, and folded the corners back. It’s neater than using separate pieces, but difficult to cut.

I tried another sample using little squares, and stitching each one on separately, which is also quite tricky, as the folded triangular flaps get in the way of each other, and the end result isn’t very straight, but I guess that doesn’t matter. I cut off all the loose threads because I was getting in a tangle, and I used the embroidery foot on the machine, because I thought it would be narrower and easier to manoeuvre than a normal foot, but I couldn’t get the tension right – I think this was ambitious considering how little experience I’ve had with machine embroidery, but I enjoyed trying.

It probably works better if you measure everything very thoroughly to start with and draw guidelines. And I think you need stiffer paper, with slightly more body to it than wrapping paper and a pages from a magazine. My efforts are bigger than Helen Edwards’ work, and it was still very fiddly. It was a real learning curve, but I have got ideas on how this could be improved.


A sideways view of my pieced sample, showing the flapped back triangles.

NB: I’ve got notes and pictures in the sketchbook, but my samples are in a box, to stope them getting flattened. And I was struggling to scan in big pages, so I’ve keyed my notes in and downloaded the photos.


Module 2, Chapter 5: Recycled Papers (Mainly Strips)


2.5.1: Paper and Glue

Well, it’s December, and I don’t seem to be as far forward as I had hoped. It’s been a funny sort of year really, starting on a high with our Younger Daughter’s graduation (her second), and our Elder Daughter’s wedding, both of which, as you can imagine, were lovely, happy occasions which left us with some wonderful memories. And I’ve been very glad of these bright spots to look back on, because not long after that my Mother was ill, and as she recovered we finally acknowledged just how bad her memory is, and how much help she needs to cope with everyday life. I seem to have been backwards and forwards every week for months, checking that everything is OK, liaising with carers, organising visits to doctors, audiologists, and goodness knows who else. It’s all very stressful, and I haven’t had much time to spare, but the Creative Sketchbook Course has become something of a lifesaver, although I’m working even more slowly than usual. It is so satisfying to play around with paper, paints, glue etc – very therapeutic!

I haven’t quite finished Chapter 5, but here is record of my work and thoughts so far. A lot of it is little samples: experiments, to see what happens! I think I’m actually supposed to be creating new sheets of paper from old (a little like the magician in Aladdin!) with flat surfaces that can be used for painting or printing,  but I ended up being more interested in creating colours, patterns, textures…  I’m not sure they would all be suitable for using as a base for other techniques, and I’m even less sure that I want to cover some with paint or gesso, because I like them as they are! Anyway, here goes.

The Sketchbook: I chose to work in an A3 book, because everything else I have done has been on A4, A5, A6, and smallish square books, so I thought it would be good for me to work on a larger scale, and using recycled papers seemed to lend itself to bigger things. But I’ve found the sketchbook very cumbersome – it is really awkward to work in, and the size, and the sight of all that white paper is really intimidating. I tried painting and printing on some pages to add colour and pattern, and I tried to divide the pages up, to make them easier to work with, and to make them look more interesting. But I haven’t really achieved my aim of working on a larger scale. And it is really tricky to display sketchbook work on the blog, because the pages are to big to scan in, and I’m having problems getting enough detail into photographs, so I’ve posted bits of pages, if that makes sense.

2.5.1: Make a collection of recycled papers.


My treasure of recycled papers.

I’ve amassed a box full of papers, which I mentioned in a post here, so I’ve used the photo again. I’ve been dipping in and out of the box for previous activities, using the contents as and  when inspiration strikes. Since I keep adding things, the box of papers never gets any less, or any tidier, but I love rooting through it. There’s junk mail; old books, maps and manuscripts; magazines; wrapping paper; wallpaper samples; paper bags; food wrappers, and all sorts of other bits and bobs, as well as interesting bits of paper for printing, writing, stamping etc, and some oddments I really like – postcards, birthday cards, that kind of thing.

2.5.1 (Additional), Paper Grain:

Generally paper is manufactured from wood pulp, but it can be made from a variety of plant material, as well as some fabrics.It comes in all kinds of different weights, textures, and surfaces, and can be thin or thick, hard or soft, smooth or rough. But I’d forgotten it also has a grain, depending on which way the majority of the fibres in the pulp lie during the paper-making process. If they lie lengthways, along the longest side of the paper, then the end product is ‘grain long’. If they lie across the shortest edge it is ‘grain short’. This affects the properties of paper – water absorption, strength, lying flat etc (for example, books are usually bound with the binding parallel to the grain because then the pages will lie flat.

It also affects the way paper tears – if you tear in the direction of the grain you’ll a fairly straight line, but if you tear against it you get more jagged edges, which can be exploited for this chapter, because they make interesting shapes. The main problem is knowing which way the grain lies, because that is established during the manufacturing process, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that ‘long grain’ runs the length of your printing paper, book or magazine (though I think it usually does).

Anyway, I did some samples, just to show the difference.


2.5.1 (Additional): Cutting Edges:

Thinking about the way paper tears led me to explore different ways of cutting paper.

  • Tearing ‘freehand’ – No good if you want a really straight edge, but does give interesting shapes.
  • Tearing along a folded edge – Gives a fairly straight edge, but kind of fuzzyish, so you can usually see fibres along the edge.
  • Tearing against a ruler – Slightly straighter, but still with a kind of fuzzyish edge, so you can usually see fibres along the edge.
  • Using two hands to pull the paper apart – Uneven, but I like the effect. Depends what you are doing.
  • Scissors – Very straight, very even, with no fibres showing at the edge.
  • Craft knife – I have to admit that I’m a bit of a dunderhead with a craft knife but, like scissors, it does give very straight, very even edges, with no fibres showing.
  • Fine paint brush dipped in water to ‘paint’ lines which can be gently torn or pulled apart. This is really good for circles.shapes with wavy edges, and irregular shapes. I should remember to make more use of this technique.

And I did a few samples:


2.5.1: Gathering Glues:

I seem to have plenty of glues, and I did some experiments with glue and tracing paper back at the start of the year when I was doing 2.1, and I acquired some more glues when I was doing glue drawing,  but some of the glues I had weren’t really suitable for doing the Activities in this Chapter, and it’s a long time since I used home-made glues, so I was happy to have a play and see what worked best.

PVA (which apparently stands for polyvinyl acetate) can be a bit gloopy, but if it is too thick, you can water it down. It’s cheap, covers large areas fairly easily, dries fairly quickly and evenly, and gives good adhesion. On the downside, for activities like those in this chapter, where you have glue on the surface, it makes things shiny, and I’d rather have paper with its natural surface.

Wallpaper Paste is brilliant – it covers large areas really easily, gives a nice even, flat surface (sometimes you get a few bubbles, but they usually disappear as it dries). I like the way it allows you to slide paper shapes around on the base layer of paper, and it sticks really well, but it takes ages and ages and ages to dry. And it made my hands itch. I should have worn vinyl gloves, or tried to track down wallpaper paste without fungicide.

Artists’ Gel Medium is excellent – it dries very quickly, with a flat, smooth surface, and is a really strong glue. I bought the matte one, because I didn’t want shiny surfaces, and I liked using this, and how effective it was. This was my favourite but, sadly, it’s way too expensive to use on large areas, but I used it on some of the strips, applying it to each piece of paper (rather than covering the base paper).

Flour and Water Raw mixed together and used cold (without cooking it) wasn’t very effective – perhaps I had the proportions wrong. I used a cup of water and a cup of flour, but the papers came unstuck quite quickly, so I resorted  to matte gel medium to make them stick.

Flour and Water Cooked There are all kinds of recipes online, and in craft books, but the basic recipe (which I used to make when my daughters were small) is one part flour to three parts water (I used I cup of plain flour and three cups of water, which made an awful lot –  too much really). I just whisked it all together, and heated it slowly in an old saucepan, stirring it all the time with a wooden spoon. If you put it in an airtight container in the fridge it keeps for a week so. You can whisk it up again, and add a bit more water if it goes too thick. It was actually quite effective, and dried evenly, with good adhesion. It took a little while to dry – nowhere near as long as the wallpaper paste, but not as quick as PVA.

NB: I tended to use PVA, but did apply different glues for different activities, although I didn’t always remember to make a note of which was which!


NB: Rolling Edges Flat – Throughout this chapter, where I’ve used glues, I rolled my shapes flat with a lint roller (the kind used to get cat hairs off clothes!). The have a lovely loose rolling movement (I use them for printing as well), and they roll papers and glue nice and flat. You can pick them up dead cheap, and if you leave the shiny paper cover over the sticky roller (or just stick some paper to the tacky surface) it doesn’t stick to things. Additionally, one of those little ‘cushions’ that cleans condensation off windscreens is good for smoothing and pressing down glued papers. A large, plastic pet food mat makes a brilliant working surface, which is easy to wipe clean, and I bought flat brushes, which looked like small household paintbrushes, and were ideal for spreading glue on paper.

2.5.2 (Using Glue to make Recycled Papers), and 2.5.3 (Stitching to make Recycled Papers).

I thought it would be easy to stick to the various activities but, as usual, they all got a bit jumbled together, and I forgot to stick some things in, and added them later, or thought of trying something when I was in the middle of something else, so things hop about a bit. , But I think I’ve covered everything – glueing and stitching newspaper torn into strips; other papers torn into strips;  patches of paper; headlines and large letters from magazines, newspapers and other used papers and pasted on to a sheet of newspaper leaving gaps to allow the smaller print to show through; weaving). Additionally, there are some extra activities that were my own explorations.

These are all scanned in, and I’ve had to do two for each page, and they seem to be missing some edges. Sorry. Anyway, here we go!

On this page I used wallpaper paste to glue torn newspaper strips onto a page of newspaper, and it stuck very well, but took for ever and ever. Coating the base layer of paper with glue lets you slide pattern pieces around, and results in a smooth, flat surface – more so than you get by glueing the individual pieces I think. I guess it’s a similar technique to decoupage (not the 3D layered stuff people do today, but the kind that was incredibly popular in the 18th century, when people cut flowers and scenes and things from paper, stuck them onto a surface, and applied coat after of varnish, so the papers were ‘sunk’ in the layers, and you ended up with a seamless, smooth finish where you couldn’t see or feel the paper edges).


Next up, recycled pages from an old book and a magazine.


This one is a grid, made from torn Radio Times strips stuck onto painted newspaper. And  I had a little play to try out different methods of making shiny surfaces, though it doesn’t really show on screen. There isn’t really a lot to choose between them. The PVA (the cheapest) is as good as anything, smooth and glossy. But I rather like the acrylic wax, which isn’t quite so shiny – it’s more like a polished surface.


Here we have graduating strips from an old book on brown wrapping paper. I like the combination of colour and texture, and the way you can build up a pattern with strips of different widths.


Above (but below the graduated strips in the sketchbook) is a glossy magazine page that I cut strips in then threaded strips cut from an old book through the slots. It was a bit fiddly glueing bits in place, but I love this – I like the effect, and the contrast between the glossy, smooth surface of the magazine paper with the duller, rougher book page strips. I’d like to try this using hand embroidery to hold the strips in place – you could embroider the strips or the background. Each way would look quite different I think.


Oh, I had such fun with this next couple of pages. I cut a map into strips, and stuck them on a page from a paint sample book, then sliced it into three sections, and offset each row slightly, and trimmed everything up. You could make lovely patchwork this way, or use a design like this as some kind of canvaswork sampler perhaps. I included a photocopy of my original pattern, and then did some more photocopies and cutting and glueing, because I kind of wished I’d done the design differently! I loved, loved, loved this. But on the downside, the printed pages were much too busy, and there is way too much green and rd on the pages – a plain background would have been much better.


Below are two halves of a page where I had one of my ‘what if…’ moments, and used a shredder to make strips from old maps and book pages. The first one owes a lot to Rosalie Gascoigne (again!) and I used PVA to stick the strips onto an oddment of black sugar paper, which was a huge mistake, because the suigar paper soaked up glue like there was no tomorrow, and the strips kept coming coming unstuck. I don’t usually do shiny, but I kept brushing PVA over the finished surface, to try and hold everything down. It could probably do with another coat.

The other sample, still using shredded book pages, was on left from some printing experiments that went wrong. I wanted to try and get a diagonal pattern. Working with gaps between the strips was easier than the previous sample where they butted on to each other, and I used gel medium, which held them down nicely.


More shredded paper. First up a map, with strips made from unfolded ‘paper string’, which i bought under the impression it was garden twine! The red strips are shredded map, coloured with a wax crayon. This didn’t really go the way I wanted. Below that I chopped shredded strips up to make patterns and paper.



The next page was too nice (and too busy) to cover up, so I tried to make it part of a design by creating an outline of a square with long strips of blue paper. And I used more strips to echo the inside of the square on the opposite page. You can use your imagination to turn the boxes into anything you want.



At this point I thought; “Do strips have to have straight lines?: And having decided that they don’t, I chopped up strips with a pair of old pinking shears (I know, that sounds like sacrilege, but they really don’t well on material any longer). The top left sample was stitched on black paper, using the zigzag on the machine – I started trying to vary the length and width, but the thread kept breaking, so I left it). I like this, especially the way the pinked edges of the paper create a pattern with the black background. Top right the pinked paper strips are stitched to a piece of black felt, using various stitches. It works best where you use stitches that emphasise the edges, like columns 1 and 3. The star was stitched on yellow cellophane. And the folded black paper is just my notes.


The page below was an experiment, with lots of small samples using different papers and the brush and water method to make wavy edges. I found that OS maps don’t tear very easily, and the paintbrush and water method does not work on them – I guess they must be toughened and protected in some way. And the brush and water method doesn’t work on coloured photos on glossy magazine pages, although it works on text on the same pages. The coloured inks seem to form a resist.


I really enjoyed working on the next page. Having decided that strips don’t have to be straight, I wondered if they could have two different edges. So I cut wide strips from magazine pages, and cut fancy edgings. The fringing (the second one done) as a bit of a disaster – some bits got torn and bent, and it was flattened when I stuck it on the page, even though the fringe has no glue on it.


The bit I like best is my pointed edging at the bottom of the page – I stitched it on, and punched holes on the points to add short pieces of braid I made with twisted wool, and I added some of my hand-made beads. The problem wit it is that once I’d done that I realised the paper wasn’t really strong enough, so I put blobs of glue from the glue gun on the back, to hold the braids where they went through the back, and I tried gluing Vilene and more paper on the back, but the surface is too bumpy and they started coming apart. Next time I’ll strengthen the edge first, then embellish it.


Everything on this page was hand stitched. I found it quite tricky to stitch ‘freehand’ because it’s awkward on an unyielding surface, and trying to push the needle through from the back in the correct place wasn’t easy, and I got holes where I didn’t want them! So I made holes with different implements, trying to measure to get them equidistant. This wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be, because I couldn’t gauge the size of the stitches, and I still ended up with holes in the wrong places. Plus with some of them I forgot to put the cutting mat underneath the page, so I have a sketchbook with holes on a heap of pages!

Notes on making holes for stitching in paper

  • Machine, on straight stitch setting, with no thread top or bottom: Not as even as I thought it would be, with holes very close together – adjusting stitch length or speed  might help.
  • Awl (from my husband’s toolbox): Was OK.
  • Bookmaking awl: Much finer, and much better results – nice and neat, easy to use, not too big.
  • Japanese Screw Punch: Lots of people rave about these, so I treated myself, but I suspect it may be a waste of money. It’s not as simple to use as I thought. The hole was a bit big (but there are smaller end bit that you can buy) and it was such a fiddle-faddle cleaning paper out of it.
  • Thing that looks like a very narrow metal handle, with a very fine, very sharp needle-like point at one end: I have no idea what it is (it was among my mother’s art and needlework stuff). It’s quite effective, and the point is lethal!

Here’s a photo of them:


Next up is fattish, wavy edges strips (or perhaps they’ve morphed into some other shapes) which I cut from a magazine page and stuck onto a picture from a book on Norman Rockwell (rescued from the Oxfam recycling bags). The magazine cut-outs were intended as the focal point, and I as going to do some stitching, but the background pushed it’s way to the front and took centre stage! Regrettably, the red lines I drew my strips with are noticeable where I didn’t cut properly, but I think they look OK.


Below are a couple more experiments with wavy edges. One has strips cut with children’s fancy scissors, which are fun to use. The two left-hand ones at the bottom (on the red background) were done with the die cutter, and they’re nice and neat – and boring. The two on the left were done with little hand held punches. The punches and dies only do short strips and it’s awkward trying to match a repeat pattern to make them longer. More fun to make your own patterns I think.


I was trying to be clever here by cutting strips in a page to reveal the page below. And there’s a strip on the right with triangle cut out and flapped out. I enjoyed doing this, but you need to be very precise. And I didn’t think carefully enough about whether my pattern would hold together when it was cut – I kept things simple, but even so I ended up having to do a couple of repairs with glue and sticky tape! I’d like to handstitch the two pages together, but I haven’t got time at the moment.


I’m trying to break this down into several posts – this one is mainly glue and strips.

Rosalie Gascoigne Take 2


This a holding exercise, to show what I am trying to with my stitched book on Rosalie Gascoigne – wrapped wooden tea stirrers on back and front, by the spine, using garden twine, raffia, old embroidery threads and wire; braids to hang from them using variety of old yarns, sari silk and variety of techniques – plaiting (with 3 threads, 4 threads and different materials combine), lucet, twist, friendship bracelet knots (think these are actually macrame knots) etc; beads to hang from ends using newspaper and other recycled paper, wire, threads, paints, and various other bits and pieces eg shiny paper from packet of tea bags, and netting from oranges – I’ve zapped things with the heat gun, and found some stuff like that fuses OK, but it’s better adding a bit of Fibretex or Bondaweb or something like that first; little metal squares, cut from old tube of skin cream, with letter of alphabet incised on with crochet hook, then held in gas flame with VERY low flame; wire curls – you can see one of them on the covered stick, but I’ve done a lot of loose ones, using different sire, including green garden wire..

There are more things than this – these are the bits I’m working on at the moment, and nothing is properly finished, and the pictures are not very good – I am taking some better ones to stick in sketchbook and do a proper piece about it, so I’ll update this in a couple of days.

Now I need to work out how to put everything together….


Update (September 11): Lizzy Lewis (my tutor), had some  brilliant suggestions about making a cover with drink stirrers, so I’ve decided to change direction, and I’m working on ideas and samples in the sketchbook!

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.