Category Archives: Creative Sketchbooks

Module 2, Chapter 10, Activity 1 (Part 1)


2.10.1: Make small trial sketchbooks to try out stab stitch and fold and stitch techniques.

I’ve split this post into two – the remainder will follow at a future date because the others are not finished – but I wanted to show some of them to prove I am working!


I loved doing these, especially when I was working with a theme – I may not be very adventurous, and I didn’t always stick to my plan (things evolve), but it made me think about what I was doing, and the various ideas I could explore and how I could bring different techniques together, without feeling constrained by doing an ‘activity’ in proper bound book with all those blank pages. I think this is more likely to influence the way I work in the future than anything I’ve done so far. It makes it all seem much freer and more individual. I can see how it works with a ‘mix and match’ approach for the various activities I’ve covered in modules 1 and 2 (plus anything else I want to try) and how it means you can take an idea for a project (even something you might not be very interested in) and run with it to get something that is your own interpretation through research, playing with colour, samples, notes, sketches, techniques, inspirational pictures/photos/information etc.

General Notes

  • I preferred the stab stitch method as I felt it gave a greater degree of flexibility with different sized papers, thickness etc, but but I have tried to produce books using the two different techniques, as well as in different shapes and sizes.
  • On some samples I stitched to the ends of the pages, but if you’re not careful the holes pull and near if they’re too near the edge, so it’s better with a gap.
  • When stab-stitching decorated pages you need to remember that may lose some of the design/lettering along that edge. And with something like my ‘H’ book a design may end up narrower on that side and look unbalanced.
  • Think about whether the holes are big enough for the threads.

The Book of Writing Tools

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The finished book.

For this one I used the papers where I tried out different writing tools (2.2.1), because it seemed a nice way to keep them together. They are all roughly eight inches square, so I wove paper strips from a magazine to make the covers, free-machine stitched them, sloshed white paint over, and used a variety of tools  to make the title on the front. The holes were made with a Japanese screw punch, and it was stab stitched together with six strands of stranded embroidery thread – there are a lot of pages, so it needs a thick thread to hold it firmly.  I embellished it by wrapping a wooden satay stick with threads (using a half-hitch over and over again, in the same direction, so the knots wind round and the stick), making beads for the ends, and loosely plaiting brightly coloured silk sari ‘ribbon’ with red and yellow embroidery thread to make cords for ties. The sari silk is beautifully frayed all along the length of its edges, which makes for an interesting textured surface, but I roughed it up a bit more with a toothbrush, and frayed the ends to make thin tassels. I also made cords to dangle from the stick, using the half-hitch and beads.

writing tools 1 (2).jpg

The book cover before I took it apart!

However, once I came to fix them to the covers I realised the paper wasn’t strong enough, so I unpicked the stab stitched binding, and used Bondaweb to stick black felt to the inside of the front and back covers (sandwiching the ends of the cords between the layers, with double sided tape to make it more secure). Then I added painted Bondaweb, foils, tissue paper and embossing powder because the felt looked a little dull! The grid pattern  echoes the woven squares on the front and back. Finally I stab stitched the pages back together again, with the wrapped stick held against the spine. If I did it again I would add the felt to the cover at an early stage, then stitch through all the layers, which would look better and hod everything together more effectively, then print the title.

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Inside front (the back is very similar)

On the down side, the edges of my papers weren’t very straight, which can make stitching tricky, and because the pages were already decorated bits of my lettering disappeared into the holes and stitching – there’s obviously a very good reason why books have margins!

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You can see the stab stitching more clearly on the back cover.

On the plus side, I was surprised at how quickly the addition of decorative covers and a stitched spine turned a somewhat disparate collection of pages into a unified whole – it looks and feels like a proper book! And it was SUCH fun!

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One of the beads and part of a cord – I can’t get a decent close-up of the detail.

The Book of ‘Photo Letters’

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A grotty photo of the front of my ‘Photo Letters Book’ using rail tickets and printed letters inspired by photos.

Remember the photos I took of things in the environment that looked like letters for Module 2 Chapter 8? And how I said I wanted to try and draw some of them, and produce other letters in the same style? Well, this seemed the ideal opportunity.

I started off attempting to reproduce them with the same proportions, nice straight lines, and lots of detail. I even tried tracing shapes from small photos – and it all looked terrible. Then I remembered what a mess I got into trying to slavishly copy Jasper Johns’ work, so I took a deep breath and, using the photos as inspiration, drew freehand  letters on funky foam, cut them out, stuck them to foam board, and got along much better (except for the peculiar ‘O’, which was based on the centre of the pink flower, and hasn’t worked at all, but I’ve included it anyway).

photo letters book 1 (2)I printed my letters on to old train tickets painted white on one side and black on the other (because I couldn’t resist black gouache when I spotted it in a shop and, having bought it, had to use it immediately). I planned to use black, white, red and silver for printing, but added other colours. And I hopped about, making various letters in various styles. The covers are photos, with the words ‘photo letters’ scratched into the surface, and acrylic paint rubbed in, but it wasn’t very successful, so I printed over them with my letters, which didn’t improve things. They’re backed with black card from a packet of tea leaves.

photo letters book 2 (2)The book is stab stitched together with red wire, that I aged by added blobs of black gouache, which don’t really show in the photo. I tried adding beads, and wire coils that I made, but they didn’t look right, so I left the ends at the front, and wound them into kind of disjointed coils, which I like. Wire needs biggish holes, and small pliers to pull it taut after each stitch.

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I love this, and I’m  really pleased with it, even though it’s not perfect, and it hasn’t scanned in very well. I was aiming for an ‘urban grunge’ look, and overall I think I succeeded – I particularly like the effect of the black gouache as a background, and the letters I created exceeded my expectations (apart from the horrid ‘O’). The materials I chose suited the design, it’s much more textured than it looks in the pictures, and my colours aren’t too bad – the original palette was fine, and the small amount of green is OK, but the blue and yellow don’t add anything. I think the book needed more cohesion: it would have been better with one overall design style, or one letter printed in many different ways. And I should have punched holes in the tickets before printing the letters so it was easier to position them. I had a good idea, but if fell down a bit on the execution.

photo letter book 3 (2)

The Book of Purple

purple 2 (2)

This is a stitch and fold sample. I used decorated A4 sheets from my stash (c reated way back in Module 1),  glued together with fungicide-free cellulose paste (1 tspn of powder to half a pint of cold water) so they were decorated on both sides, then I left them to dry, and flattened them overnight under a pile of heavy books. I folded them in half lengthways and as the pages were fairly thick and strong I didn’t make a separate cover. And, as the colours are quite strong, and the front is very busy, I decided the book didn’t need decoration, but I trimmed the front edges to give a layered effect – each page is roughly half a centimeter narrower than the one below it. I made a twisted cord with three strands of thick crochet thread, in purple, pink and gold, using an old hand drill with a cuphook in the end (this cost me 50p in a junk shop and it is BRILLIANT – it twists anything together, even wires). The cord is probably a bit too thick (I had to enlarge the holes, which made them messy, but I don’t think it matters). I left the threads hanging down the spine of the book, and used plain, simple lettering for the title, so it didn’t detract from the printed pattern on the cover.

purple 3

For some reason I have a lot of purple papers in the box, which is odd, because it’s not a colour I’m overly fond of. Anyway I took purple as my theme, and wrote about it in purple felt tips – nothing else would have done! The book was partly inspired by Sei Shonagon’s ‘Pillow Book’ – she was a lady-in-waiting at the Japanese imperial court at the turn of the  10th/11th century and she wrote the most wonderfully lively, gossipy account of her life, like a diary on a grand scale, with stories, poems, lists of things she did and didn’t like, historical information, comments about people, and details about clothes, customs, weather and so on. So the format of my book is a kind of Pillow Book, with lists and information, and the idea of the layered edges came from her too – she describes how Japanese ladies at that time wore layered clothes, and the hem of each layer was slightly shorter than the one beneath, so they all showed, but they had very strict rules about the colours used and the distances between the edges.


I wish I’d made this bigger – it’s crying out to be a ‘working sketchbook’ rather than a complete book. I could have used more details (I wanted to included the purple silken sails on Cleopatra’s barge, but didn’t have room), and some pictures, and a map to show where Tyre is, and some samples of different types of purple, and some dying experiments, and some poetry… I can see how even a very simple idea can be expanded into a sketchbook packed with ideas to use in future projects.

putple 5

purple 6

The Book of Texture

DSCN6314This is a work in progress, which is a bit further on than the photo, but I’ve included it to show what I’m doing. It was inspired by Lizzy’s feedback on my struggles with Jasper Johns, when she suggested adding texture to the paint wit things like sawdust, chalk and sand. So I had a play with all sorts of stuff – sand, sawdust, seeds, snippets of thread, bits of paper… And I decided that books don’t have to be square or rectangular, so I’ve stuck to the Jasper Johns theme and am making this one in the shape of a letter ‘H’. It will be a stitch and fold book, and include notes on the left-hand pages (so I know what I’ve done). I’m going to gently brush over the textured paint with pearlescant mica paint to highlight the surface.

The Book of Feathers 


Feather pages waiting to be stab stitched into a book.

This started as a simple collection of pages from the stash where I experimented with monoprinting feathers – some bought, some collected on walks. But it grew… I tried some rubbings, and trying to make impressions by pressing feathers in textured paint, moulding paste and light-weight Fimo (can’t remember what it’s called). I wanted to try and get a fossil effect… Then I found sun photograph paper in a shop in Brixton, so I made sunprints of feathers, which I love, love, love, and it is ever so easy.


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Sun prints! Aren’t they fantastic!

And I even plucked up the courage to try some drawing – I started by copying drawings of feathers in books, and progressed to drawing a real feather! I’ve made stitched pockets to hold feathers, notes, rubbings etc. And I’m trying to make stitched feathers out of paper for the cover, but they look more like leaves!


Stitched feather sample looks more like a leaf!

The Book of Rosalie Gascoigne

I always intended to make a cover and embellish the book I made in Module 2, Chapter 4, but I put it on hold while I concentrated on the activities I was meant to be doing. So I am weaving a cover, threading strips of magazine pages through a biggish-holed plastic mesh – I found long strips of this, in bright colours, in Brixton Market (I get lots of stuff there, because my younger daughter lives in Brixton). But you’ll have to wait for the big reveal until it’s finished.



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

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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.

2.3: Glue Drawing



Activity 2.3.1 (writing words or phrases with glue)  ran into 2.3.1 (making rubbings from glue drawings) and 2.3.3 (putting colour washes over the rubbings, then they morphed into the Extra Activities (using the glue as a resist, and using inks, Procion dyes and silk paints as colour washes. 

Markal Vilene

Look what I’ve done! Lots of new techniques and bold colours… Blue Markal oilstick rubbing over lettering with Hobbycraft Tacky PVA (on a transparent sheet). Brushed over with green Brusho ink and Procion yellow dye (while uncured). Then I stitched over it on the machine with shiny machine embroidery thread (it’s thicker than normal thread, and slightly twisted, and variegated in shades of blue, yellow and green). Wish I’d stitched to the edges and left cut threads hanging, instead of going up and down.



Markal stick rubbing on nappy liner, with yellow and green ink and dye. I let it dry and added some blue ink. (It’s pictured over a bit of the old patterned pillowcase.


Then I ironed it over the stitched Vilene, because I wanted to try something different. But even though I did some samples first, I couldn’t get the temperature right (I’m using my old iron, and the heat control is dodgy, which is why I bought a new one). If you get the temperature right the nappy liner fuses to the Vilene and goes into holes. If it’s too hot the nappy liner melts away, which is what happened here. But there is some left, so it’s not a total failure, and I’m going to do some more machine stitching in the gaps, and hand stitching round the edges, and I’ll post a picture later. At least I tried!

General Comments

I’ve tried to separate out the activities, using notes and photos I took as went along, but really this chapter was tackled as a whole. I experimented with a lot of bits and pieces, and seem to have ended up with a great many sheets of decorated paper and fabric, as well as the transparent surfaces I used for glue writing, so I haven’t used the sketchbook for this chapter, and I’ve stored everything in a box file – the work itself, and the notes and photographs. There’s too much to include everything here! Some of it needs more colour on, but I wanted to get my work posted.

This chapter didn’t start well, and was quite frustrating in some ways. There was a lot of waiting – waiting for glue to dry, waiting for paint to dry, waiting for more layers of paint to dry…  And things didn’t always react the way I expected. But despite the problems I really enjoyed myself!

I found glue tricky to write with. My PVA seemed to be very thick, but when I watered it down it was too runny to hold a pattern. In the end I persevered with it thick, but I couldn’t do small writing, and it made printer paper crinkle and buckle.

So I resorted my little hot glue gun, and was going to work on transparent sheets which I recycled from covers and dividers on books/instructions made and supplied by the local college for a computer course I did when I was first made redundant. They feel like perspex or acetate rather than plastic, but they’re not as stiff as perspex usually is, yet not as flexible as plastic folders. However, I was a bit wary of using hot glue on them without knowing what they’re made of, so I used stiffish black cartridge paper. The letters dried and hardened almost instantaneously, so I rubbed over them with a wax crayon, sloshed on some runny water colour, and left it to dry, still rather unimpressed with things at this stage. But when I looked at it the next morning I thought oooh, nice, maybe this isn’t so bad after all!


Oil pastel (some of it rubbed with my fingers) rubbings. Then I damped the paper and sprinkled it with Brusho powders. A little goes a long way.

I got to work experimenting with my transparent sheets trying out different sorts of glues I found around the house and shed. The transparent sheets were brilliant, nice and smooth to work on, and din’t soak up glue like the printer paper did, but the glues took a long time to dry – more than overnight in most cases. And my writing technique needs a lot of practice – it’s difficult to squeeze glue out evenly, so I got lumps. bumps and gaps, but I think that adds to the effect.

Additionally, I should say that my paints didn’t really pool and move away from the rubbings as I expected. In fact, mostly the paint seemed to cover the letters, but you could still see them. Something not quite right there perhaps, but I’m not sure what – paint too thick or too thin? Rubbing not thick enough? Wrong sort of paper?

Some of the papers I used were spectacularly unsuccessful – some of the tissue paper disintegrated because I had the wash way too watery. Others were too thick to get ecent rubbings – like the heavier quality khadi paper or more upmarket magazines (I got a stash of old magazines, maps and dressmaking patterns in charity shop).


Tissue from dressmaking pattern. I liked working on this – it was tougher than it looked. Wax crayon rubbing, mix of ink,water colour and dye.

Anyway, as I said, I enjoyed this chapter immensely, and was pleased with the results, even though a lot of my work was very messy. I was better organised than I am sometimes, and gathered my materials together beforehand, and planned out my work sessions properly. I even set myself a timetable (which I more or less stuck to) and kept better notes, and wrote the blog a little at a time, as I went along.

I’ve tried lots of new things, and I loved working with the Markal oilsticks on Vilene, and horticultural fleece and things like that,  and using inks and dyes instead of paints. And because they are thin you can see through them to some extent, so I got tremendously excited about layering them over each other, or on top of other fabric or paper. I’m still not sure about the best method of sandwiching them together. I tried Bondaweb and machine stitching, but I dare say a glue stick might work.

I didn’t make any effort to brush proper patterns on my paper and fabric – I just sloshed the washes on and let them dry. Overall, I felt I learned a lot about working with colours, because I discovered fairly quickly that bright, contrasting colours looked better for these activities, but if you go too dark or too thick you lose the rubbings.

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Brown paper, wax crayon, water colour. Needs taking further.

Findings (2.3.1, Writing with Glue)

Health and Safety: I worked in a well ventilated area, and to start with tried little blobs of glue, because I don’t know what the transparent sheets are made of, and didn’t know if they would react badly with any of the glues.

Hot Glue Gun: I liked working with this, probably because I’m not very patient, and it’s very immediate. It takes a while to get the hang of working with it, and it’s not the easiest thing to control, but as well as lettering you can get long, long, thin, stringy bits and blobs and stuff, which would add interest to rubbings if I could control it better.


Hot glue gun on black cartridge paper, photographed when dry.


Rubbing on khadi paper from hot glue gun writing. I started using red oil pastel, but paper is too thick & I made a mess. So I changed to wax crayon, which worked beautifully. There’s a  pale lemon water colour wash, but it doesn’t show well. It looks messy, but I like the textured effect of wax crayon on khadi paper – I might go over it with a stronger colour (ink or dye perhaps) to make more of it..

PVA: Much more difficult to use than I expected. I couldn’t get the consistency right – it was either too thick, or too thin, very uneven, and took hours to dry. And the rubbings weren’t wonderful. Perhaps I just need more practice with it!


PVA glue on transparent sheet (possibly perspex or acrylic). Photographed against black card, while wet. There is a lot of  reflection. The white square at the top right is a label stuck on the back, to say which glue I used. I put one on all my home-made rubbing plates.


Dried PVA photographed against part of a pink plastic carrier bag. It seems to shrink and lose definition as it dries.


Fat wax crayon rubbing, sponged over with Koh-I-Noor water-based dyes – lovely little solid blocks of colour in a container, which look quite dull until you apply water on a brush or sponge and start painting, then they suddenly zing and pop right out at you.


Oil pastel rubbing with very watery water colours.


Tea light with more Koh-I-Noor water-based dyes. Too many colours. And some black got mixed up there which is not a good look

Hobbycraft Tacky PVA: This, apparently, is PVA that stays tacky for longer than ordinary PVA. It looked the same as ordinary PVA, but was slightly easier to squeeze out, not as unwieldy to work with, and gave smoother rubbings. I preferred it to the normal stuff.


Hobbycraft Tacky PVA on transparent sheet, photographed against black card while wet.


Dried Tacky PVA against the pink plastic (it’s more cheerful than black). Photographed in my little shed, where there’s less reflection!

Wood Glue: This was very thick, but it was easy to work with because it came out of the container so smoothly. It took the better part of 24 hours to dry and, surprisingly, it dried almost completely flat. Even more surprisingly, I got quite good rubbings from it, as long as the paper or fabric was fairly thin. I enjoyed working with this.


Wood glue on transparent sheet, photographed against black paper while wet. Lot of reflection again – you can see my hands and the little ‘point and shoot’ camera!


Wood glue, dried, on a transparent sheet, photographed against the pink plastic bag.You can see how much volume the glue lost, but it was good to work with.


And I got a rubbing like this! Wax crayon over wood glue and water colour. Love it!

General Purpose Bostik: As it dried this made the transparent sheet look as if it had been warped by heat – part of it was all wavy and 3D and part of it looked as if it had been slightly melted or shrunk or something, all kind of drawn up, like skin round a scar. And it smelt very, very peculiar while I was using the glue. It dried quickly, but it was really, really difficult to get a decent rubbing from it, partly because the surface of the transparent sheet was so uneven, and partly because it dried very flat and didn’t provide enough definition. And I was a bit concerned about health and safety issues – I assume the glue reacted with whatever the transparent sheets are made of, so it’s a good job I was in a well ventilated area. On reflection paper or card might have been better.


General Purpose Bostik, on transparent sheet, photographed wet against black card. As it dried the surface got more and more warped.


Part of the surface of the transparent sheet after the General Purpose Bostik dried. It’s difficult to get a clear photo,  and there is a degree of reflection, but the shiny bits are distortion. All that area is kind of bubbly and wavy and puckered, and crinkled.


Green wax crayon Bostik rubbing, with some watered down murky-looking remnants of yellow ink, where I’d accidently used a dirty paint brush/ Photographed when wet.


Green oil pastel, on paper used for mopping up ink in last pic  (it got spilt – bit of a disaster all round really!)



As before, with a bit of pink acrylic wash. I liked it better to start with!

Glitter Glue: Hopeless, because it didn’t adhere to the surface. Whole words fell off, and bits of letters, and it was quite brittle, so more bits broke off as I tried rubbing over them.


Glitter Glue on transparent sheet, when first photographed against black card while wet. It had already lost the cross bars on the ‘ts’ in glitter, and it smudged as it dried. The only lettering left is ‘all that glitter’. And the ‘i’ no longer has a dot! The rubbings (when I had enough lettering left to do them) were actually quite nice, and it was super to write with – the only thing where I managed to do ‘joined-up’ writing! Just a shame it didn’t stay stuck.


Wax crayon rubbing over glitter glue, with green paint wash over the top.

Glue that Stays Tacky for Foils: Couldn’t resist a bit of foiling. Sorry. So I’ve done a sample for rubbing and painting as well.

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Partly dried foil glue on left-over, failed monoprinting experiment (blue and white paint on black paper).



Transfer foils in gold, pink and silver.


Foil glue on paper, left to dry, and painted to see if it forms a resist. It can, allegedly, be reactivated by heat, so I tried to see if I could get metallic coppery tissue to stick. But I couldn’t. Should have thought of this while it was still tacky. And it’s a bit anaemic looking.


Equally anaemic! Wax crayon rubbing over foil glue. It does work, but I think using  brown paper was overly optimistic. And you need to rub quite hard, with a strong colour.

Silcone Sealant (for bathrooms): Very thick indeed – you have to write big! Keeps its three-dimensional shape and white colour when dry – it didn’t seem to have altered at all!.Stays tacky for a long time, and feels slightly soft and rubbery when dry. I achieved the best rubbing by rubbing over the top of each letter very carefully with the side of a fat wax crayon.


Silicone Sealant on a transparent sheet,pictured when completely dry, against the tissue paper I used for a rubbing.


Rubbing of silicone sealant, using side of a blue fat wax crayon on pink textured tissue paper, brushed over with yellow and blue ink. It’s actually quite hard doing a rubbing, because the sealant stands above the surface o the paper, and the tops of the letters are slightly domed, so the area you rub is quite narrow. If I used sealant again I would try and flatten the letters a little, with a piece of stiff perspex. And a darker coloured crayon would have been better.

Findings (2.3.2 Making Rubbings, Paper, Fabric and Other Things)

Paper: I started off just using printer paper, but as my confidence grew I did  rubbings on all kinds of paper – deli paper, tissue paper, khadi paper, brown wrapping paper, old maps, decorated printed and painted papers from earlier work (not so good over thick acrylics, but fine with washes and water colours or inks), paper bags, cartridge paper, old magazines and other pages from the recycling box. Anything seems to work, as long as it’s fairly thin.

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This is a map of part of the Alps, which I bought in a charity shop, because it is in shades of white, grey and black, and it has all these wonderful contour lines, which I promptly covered up! I tried using a blue gelato to rub over glue gun writing, but it wasn’t successful, so I tried wiping it off with a baby wipe but only smeared it everywhere. So I used a black crayon for the rubbing, then crumpled the paper, and rubbed it with sandpaper, then added silver paint, which was overpowering. So I repeated the crumpling and sandpaper, and rubbed a red crayon sideways over everything. I wanted to do something different.

The paper needs to be well anchored to the rubbing plate though for this exercise I don’t think it matters if it shifts – I did a few samples where I deliberately moved the paper into different positions to try and layer or overlap the words. I used plastic laundry pegs to hold the rubbing plate and the paper together.


Rubbing on deli paper over glue gun writing, using wax crayons, with a water colour wash. I kept moving the paper up.

Fabric: Loved this! I used pieces chopped up from a old pillow case, remnants of unused white cotton, and an oddment of very thin silk. Material was stretchier than paper, so it needs to be pulled taut, and held firm. And a certain amount of colour from whatever you use to do the rubbings with goes through to the glue and the surface beneath (especially anything oil-based), but it cleans off with baby wipes, and in any case, it doesn’t matter if you leave it. And it’s better to build up colours layer by layer.


This was a piece of cotton, with a black wax crayon rubbing, that I used blue and red silk paints on, but they soaked in  and looked terrible, so I washed it in cold water, and when it was dry I added a layer of Bondaweb with a red wax crayon rubbing. Iron too hot again I think. It is either maximum heat, or practically cold.

Other Things: At this point I was having such fun I got completely carried away and had a ‘what if’ moment… so I dug out my Vilene (iron-on and stitchable), and the Bondaweb, and I bought some nappy liners, and horticultural fleece from the garden centre (while meeting friends for lunch) and some stuff for suppressing weeds (it looks a bit like black J-cloth). And they were FANTASTIC !!!!!


Black fabric weed suppressant, with a gold Markal rubbing. It takes a rubbing well, especially with MarkL or oil pastel, but trying to paint over it is tricky, because black always sems to swallow colours. I tried lemon Brush ink, but it’s not very noticeable – a white acrylic wash might be better. And you might get a better surface to work on if you washed the fabric first in soapy water – I think it’s been treated with some kind of water repellent.


EYellow Markal rubbing with green and yellow dye washes over agricultural fleece. Like the weed supressant, it takes the rubbing OK, especially with Markal and oil pastels, but doesn’t take a wash so well. I think this mat also have some kind of water repellent on it, so I’m going to try washing a piece with soapy water.


Markal stick on medium weight iron-on Vilene., with dyes and inks.

Findings (2.3.2 Making Rubbings, Mark Makers)

Wax Crayons: Lovely fat crayons (the kind sold for children) are just brilliant on any kind of paper or fabric (and the Vilene and  horticultural fleece and stuff like that – does it all count as fabric I wonder?). And you can use any kind of colour wash over them – paint, ink, dye. Fabulous! And I am in love with those gorgeous Neocolour wax crayons made by Caran d’Ache, so I tried them as well, but had a bit of a disaster because some of the soluble ones had made their way into the box with the water resistant ones, so you can imagine what happened when I added a colour wash! But it looks interesting and I like the effect, so I shall pretend it’s meant to look that way!

Oil Pastels: These also give good rubbings and paper and fabric, and resist any colour wash. The colours are more vibrant than those from wax crayons, but I find them more difficult to work with.

Candle (Well, tealight actually, but it’s the same thing): Good resist qualities – better than anything else I used. But I ended with too much wax on the surface, so  I lost the rubbed letters. I’d rather work with  colour where I can see what I’m doing!


EFrom the recycling box – I used it under a piece of paper I was doing printing stuff with the Brayer and acrylic paints. The paper and paints were uite thick, but the rubbing was OK, and I put a yellow wash over everything.

Markal Oil Sticks: I bought a few of these at the stitching show at the NEC earlier in the year, to have a play, and wasn’t sure how to use them, but thanks to advice from people on the Distant Stitch Facebook forum I’ve using them on fabric and Vilene and stuff, and I think they are WONDERFUL! I was a bit heavy-handed to start with, and made a horrible mess, because I pressed too hard. I got along much better once I started building up lighter layers of colour (that seems to be a basic rule with everything). The colours are very strong (much stronger than anything else I’ve ever used), and they are lovely with inks and dyes. Initially the fabric smells a bit peculiar, and feels kind of sticky, and apparently you’re supposed to leave them to ‘cure’ for a couple of days, but they were fine to work on immediately.


Page from an old book. The paper was quite porous, and the rubbing, with a wax crayon came out quite well, but I’m not sure trying to do a wash with similar colour water colour was a good idea, especially as it turned out that the crayon was soluble.

Findings (2.3.2 and Extra Activity 2, Colour Washes with Paints, Silk Paints, Dyes and Inks)

Health and Safety: I invested in some cheap disposable masks for protection when mixing Brusho powder inks and Procion dyes, but kept forgetting to use them. And I forgot to wear vinyl gloves, and ended up with multi-coloured hands. It took a couple of days to wash off completely! But I did remember to wear my spare pair of glasses – I tend to wear them for messy/splashy stuff, because the lens are not up to date (though they are fine for close work over short periods) so I don’t mind if I get paint or glue or anything  on them, or if they get scratched. Jars with screw-on lids (and labels!) are essential for mixing and storing dye and ink powder.


Water Colours: These are fine, though they dry lighter, so they’ve not always as noticeable as I expected. And they soaked in to fabrics and vanished!

Silk Paints: These were fine on the piece of silk (obviously!), and papers, and Bondaweb and stuff like that, where they spread and flow and look incredibly bright. But they weren’t so good on the old pillowcase, where they didn’t spread, and weren’t as colourful. Next time I use them I’ll sprinkle salt crystals on top, or sugar syrup, because they give interesting effects.

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Red Markal oilstick rubbing from hot glue gun writing. Splodges of yellow, pink and purple silk paints dropped over surface with pipettes. Needs something adding to it, just trying to decide what!

Procion Dyes: I didn’t use any kind of mordant, or the thickening stuff you can get because these were just samples. They gave lovely, vibrant colours on fabric or paper, and I loved working with them.

Brusho Powdered Inks: Again, they gave the most fabulous colours, and I loved working with them.


End of wax crayon, cotton, acrylic paint washes. Lettering not very clear.


Shiny magazine page.

‘Extra’ Extra Activity Calligraphy Workshop


These are some of the pages I worked on at the two-hour ‘Patterns are Letters and Letters are Pattern’ workshop that I went to in Ledbury, way back at Easter, run by Caroline Owen-Thomas. That was when I first arrived at Mum’s because she was ill. I’d expected to be there just a few days, and ended up staying two months (with a few days back home here and there when my elder daughter, and my brother took over. When Mum was on her feet again and I was back home I thought I would hit the ground running, but it’s taken me a long time to get back into routine, and there have been trips to Mum, and hospital visits to arrange for her, and carers, and doctor’s appointments and all sorts of stuff to be sorted out at a distance.

Anyway, she is better, and is happy, and on an even keel, and I finally seem to be back on track so, having finally finished Module 2, Chapter 2, I thought it would be nice to include some of the work I did that did that day and while I was with Mum, as a kind of ‘Extra’ Extra Activity. I have done some more bits and pieces since then, and am hoping it will encourage me to be more adventurous with my Sketchbook.

The workshop was a kind of prequel to calligraphy, concentrating on the kind of marks used in lettering – curves, circles, straight lines, wavy lines… We learned how to hold a pen at different angles to produce the various marks, how to get the right size of letter for the pen you have, how to get the correct balance between letter height and width, and how to do quick, simple embellishments. And we played with all kinds of pens, including tooth brushes, felt tips, calligraphy markers, dip pens, and Caroline’s home-made pens made from things like empty cola cans and strips of balsa wood. I wish I’d made a note of which tools made which marks.

We started off by making marks on huge pieces of brown wrapping paper I folded it up to get these pictures), and moved on to A4 sheets of white paper laid over the top of squared paper on which we rules thick, black lines to use as guidelines. It tied in well with this Distant Stitch course, because you could use it as a jumping off point to try your hand at serious calligraphy, or you could focus very much on patters, whether it’s patterns made from letters, or using letter shapes to interpret patterns in the environment. This one is upside down. Sorry.

We all came away with a couple of pages of her notes, and a calligraphy pen, lots of sheets of paper to write on – and lots of ideas to put into practice! Caroline also recommended two books, both of which I succumbed to – Margaret Daubenay’s Experimenting with Calligraphy’ and Peter Halliday’s ‘Calligraphy Art and Colour’, which cost me less than £1 for the two of them online (plus postage and packing). They are both beautiful, jam-packed with ideas for using lettering, even if you can’t do proper calligraphy.

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She organised workshops during Ledbury Lettering Festival, which featured her work alongside that of members of The Marches Scribes & Gloucestershire Lettering Arts plus pewter jewellery by Stephen Buck. They also displayed their sketchbooks (which provided a fascinating glimpse into the way these calligraphers worked and developed their ideas), and also gave demonstrations. I’ve got some photos of some of the exhibits, but lost my notes on who did them, so I can’t attribute them.


The exhibition was wonderful, with all kinds of work, from the contemporary to the very traditional (including a beautiful long, thin medieval-style manuscript). There were paintings, and patters, and texts and 3D items – work with letters cut from card or paper and built up from the surface, letters cut-out to reveal the surface beneath, free-standing boxes, books, shaped boxes which folded out to reveal their message…


Caroline was a brilliant teacher – she explained everything so it was really easy to understand, and was very patient, very inspirational, and so enthusiastic she made you feel you could achieve something.


I don’t usually do endorsements, but if anyone is in the Ledbury area (it’s in Herefordshire, near the borders with Worcestershire and Gloucestershire), and wants to do a calligraphy course or workshop, I’d recommend Caroline. She is on Facebook, and her phone number and email address appears on flyers and leaflets, but I don’t like to use them without checking it out with her, but I’m happy to pass it on if anyone wants.


Activity 2.2.2, 2.2.3 and Extra Activity.


Activity 2.2.2 (1)

Black and White:Use a marker pen or pen and ink. Begin with your word written in the centre of the page. Using the outline of the word to guide you begin to build up intricate patterns working from the centre to the edge of the page of the page. The patterns can be as varied as you like, building up from simple repetitive doodles such as spirals, dots, lines, squares and circles.

To be honest, I’m not sure if this decorated letter quite firts into this activity or not, but I did it, and I liked it, so here it is.


And here is my word. When I was working I was working I always used to doodle, on my notebook, on council minutes, on court lists, so I enjoyed this immensely. It took me hours, and I am pleased with the result, although it’s not as neat as it should be – it certainly doesn’t bear close inspection. But I’ve tried to get lots of different patterns in there, and to have areas of light and dark. It reminded me a bit of Paisley designs, or traditional crewel work. I’d like to have another go, using markers of different thicknesses, and trying to build up more dense areas contrasting with open ones, like building up a blackwork pattern.

So here’s my completed pattern:

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And here it is halfway through:



Activity 2.2.2 (2)

Colour: Use paint and a brush to write a word in the centre of your page. Using the same colour add further lines which reflect and follow the shapes made by the word.

I used gouche for this, but I’m not happy with this. It looks clumsy and messy. A smaller brush might have helped but I’m not very good with paint, am I!



Activity 3.3.3, Circles and Spirals: Draw a circle lightly in the centre of the page and use it as a guide to write words round until you reach the edges of the pages. Words can overlap or change in size.

This was what I started with, using one of my home-made ‘cola’ pens and light green acrylic ink I wrote the first stanza from Laurie Lee’s April Rise. You have to keep turning the page, and blotting as you go along, otherwise your arm and hand smudges the writin. I found the best way was to wait a few seconds, then put blotting paper over, wait a few seconds, then keep writing, with my hand and arm resting on the blotting paper.

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I wanted to make it look more interesting, and a yellow watercolour wash background, and more writing, in gold or a darker green, but I wasn’t sure what it would like, or whether my gold ink is waterproof (there’s no indication whatsoever on the bottle). So I did some samples, and sponged paint on using a small piece of a flat sponge (the kind you use for wiping kitchen surfaces), as well as a paint brush.


I went with the sponged surface, because I wanted it to look a bit patchy, and let it dry before adding another layer, especially in the centre. And I used gold paint, because I wanted the green words I already had to be dominant. And for the same reason I opted to write in the gaps, rather than over the words, so it looks almost shadowy. Unfortunately, the ink didn’t mix up very well, and it needed shaking every few seconds, only I couldn’t be bothered, so a lot of the writing came out greyish  or beige with a few golden specks rather than gold, but it adds to the shadowy effect. At this point it still wasn’t really what I wanted – the yellow did seem to be very yellow, and there was still quite a bit of white space. So I cut another piece of flat sponge and added lime green over the words. The colour reproduction on my scanner isn’t very good, but this, more or less, is what it looks like now:


I loved working on this, and I like the result.

Activity 3.3.3, Capital Letters

Draw evenly spaced lines across the page and use them as guides to write capital letters touching the lines. Add colour to spaces. Leave some white. Try restricting colours.

This one is more like a sampler, with three different techniques: colour in some of the letters; a wash across part of the letters, and the last one is supposed to colour in some of the gaps between letters, but I kept forgetting and bits of the letters as well! I really like this effect.


I wrote this one with a crochet hook and black ink, which turned out to be washable (though it didn’t come off my hands!). I tried one little bit of colour inside a letter and the yellow started turning green… And I tried thicker paint, instead of a wash, between the letters, which didn’t make the ink run, but I didn’t like the effetc. This page wasn’t doing anything at all for me… So I brushed a wet paint brush across the top of letters to get shades of grey…  And I love it!!!


Extra Activity: Try out different shapes such as squares and triangles as a starting point for Activity 3.

Remembering my cup and saucer where I tried drawing letters in the shape of the cup and saucer, I thought I would have a go at using that shape to write round. I tried to make the letters bigger and further apart as I went out towards the edges. Again, while I was working it didn’t seem to be gelling (and the top left-hand corner is wonky). But it came to life after I’d added in some very tiny writing to separate the cup from the saucer.


This one just goes round and round and round in a square, with writing oover writing, over writing. The addition of gold and silver wasn’t necessarily the best of ideas, butit just about works. However, that thickish, very black felt tip was a BIG mistake, and I don’t see what I can do about it. I guess I could try painting white over the page, which would tone it down a bit, but it will tone everything else down as well, so the black will still be dominant, even though it is not as black.


Extra Activity: If you have a drawing programme installed on your computer that has a symmetry button you can have great fun drawing patterns using your name.

Sadly, I don’t have a drawing programme. I did look at Gimp, but that’s about picture manipulation.

Review of Chapter 2

I enjoyed working on this chapter – I especially liked making and using my own pens, and writing round shapes, and the decorated capital letters, and those fabulous black and white zentangles. But it seems to have dragged on for a very long time, and I never really got into my stride until the last few activities.




2.2.1 (Take Two)


I’ve ended up starting a second sketchbook while I’m still working on the first, because when I visited my elder daughter a dew weeks back I took a selection of felt tips, so I could do some work (having realised that I’d used lots of writing tools, but hadn’t done much in the way of , or turning pages in different directions, or anything like that.I should have combined both elements of this activity, but I wasn’t thinking very clearly.

However, I accidently left my sketchbook at home and had to buy another, a cheap one, square again, and bound instead of spiral. The paper is a bit think, but it’s not too bad, although marks show through in some places. In the end I only did three pages while I was with my daughter and her husband, but it kept me occupied for four hours on the train home from Plymouth, when I covered around with 16 pages (though they weren’t all writing – some were ‘travel lines’). And, since I was on a bit of a roll, I’ve kept going with this book



I was really pleased with this page. It was fun to do, but basically it’s just writing, in different colours, styles and sizes, with text written over other text. The words are bits from songs and poems about trains, written from memory (mostly misremembered I’m afraid).


This next one is similar technique to thew last one, trying to make a kind of diagonal arrow pattern. The words were partly remembered information about June, partly copied from stuff on the Kindle, and partly copied from a book on the seasons, weather and customs which was in my travel bag – I bought it while I was away, and sat on the train floor unpacking everything!

The poem written in red on the arrow is from Thomas’s Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry, which I think is fascinating (but people think I like some very odd things). He was an Elizabethan gentleman, who wrote a book of advice for farmers, smallholders and so on, all in rhyming couplets, which I think is quite an achievement.




The lines on the page below are ‘travel lines’. You hold the pen very loosely, and draw lines as you travel,  going backwards and forwards, or up and down (or both), and you get lovely, wobbly, shaky effects. It works beautifully with broad edges calligraphy pens, where you cab get different effects by turning the pen at different angles, and if you use thick and thin pens it adds interest. If you go vertically and horizontally it looks like a piece of weaving, or drawn thread work.

Originally I intended to write over this, but it looks so nice I can’t bear to spoil it! Perhaps I could use the idea in some way for Module 3 which, I seem to remember, is all about Marks in the Landscape






More ‘travel lines’…


I’ve plucked up courage to write on one… It’s from a poem called Road, by Don Paterson. I wanted the lettering to look as if it was being viewed through a mesh curtain.


And more… They are quite mesmerising… You don’t have to think at all…


And another… Last one, honest…




Written from right to left instead of left to right. Some cultures, like those using Arabic and Hebrew scripts write from right to left.


Other cultures, like Japanese and Chines, write in rows which go down the page, from top to bottom. So I’ve tried writing from top to bottom, with the first column staring on the right hand side of the page… Confusing…



This was from an idea in the Distant Stitch Workbook. I found it quite trickt to remember what I was meant to be doing!

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Module 2, Chapter 2, Activity 1


Activity 2.2.1

Use handwriting to fill and decorate your sketchbook pages.
Using words of your choice, fill pages in your sketchbook with words in your own handwriting trying out the different tools and inks that you have. You can overlap words and use different tools and materials on the same page if you wish.
You can also vary sizes from very small to huge letters which go off the edges of the page. Or turn paper in different directions including sideways and upside down.

This post has experiments with different writing implements, and were mostly done at Mum’s when she was ill, using ‘found’ paper, an old pad of paper with filing holes in it, and cheap coloured paper from the local stationery shop, all cut into squares (but not very evenly). Some of them haven’t got backgrounds – the papers were so thin and cheap that the merest hint of moisture made them curl up and die (one piece actually disintegrated when I applied a colour wash!). However, I’ve done my best with ‘dry’ colours, using crafting ink pads (applied with a Brayer), coloured pencils, pastels (oil and soft), and wax crayons.

And I didn’t write poetry or anything on them, because I was very limited for space, and had to keep clearing things away, so mostly I wrote about the writing tools I was using, so I didn’t get muddled. I didn’t really plan anything because I had a lot of other things on my mind and was fairly busy, so I just concentrated on writing with what came to hand, but there seem to be a lot of them…

A lot of the sheets of paper are very thin, so I only used one side, and they were very crinkled and curled by the time I was more or less settled back at home. I was going to stick them in the sketch book, but it seems an awful waste of paper, so I’ve left them loose. and stuck some of them together, and glued some on to other sheets, with notes and pictures on the backs. But I have An Idea, which may or may not work…  Watch this space! Force of circumstances means I was a bit all over the place with these, so I’ve posted the pages, without many comments, and some of them are in the wrong order…



Below is sponge eye make-up applicator and red ink. Not a success – was very difficult to control the applicator  (but it’s good for mark making) and it disappeared a bit under the wax and pastel I scribbled over it. And the ink really is quite red – the colour reproduction on my printer’s scanner is not good!

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A piece of charcoal. It’s a bit unpredictable, because it has a tendency to break, and you don’t get even surfaces on the writing, but I quite like that. I tried doing a rabdom sort of monoprint over it, with acrylics and a sheet of perspex.The paint was a bit thick, so some of the letters disappeared under it, and some of them distorted a bit as I rolled the paper onto the perspex, but I quite like the grungy effect. Ink over the top would help I think, but I didn’t get that far.


The next two pages were written with two fine-liner felt-tips held together with an elastic band. Love the effect.Background on the first was done first with a teabag rubbed over the surface, then after I did the writing I put pastel marks in the white bits and used by fingers to rub them in. The second one, on yellow paper, I left blank.





This is written with the hooked end of a metal crochet hook, and I think it’s fantastic. It doesn’t hold the ink for all that long – about three letters on average, and you have to press fairly hard with the end, but you get lots of variation of light and dark, and it’s got a kind of immediacy that other pens lack, if that makes sense. It reminds me of the scratchy writing and sketches by some cartoonists and illustrators – Gerald Scarfe perhaps, or Quentin Blake? And it great if you’re feeling in a spiky sort of mood! Guaranteed to make you feel better!


The page below shows writing done with a pen I made myself (in the interests of accuracy, one of the Darling Daughters has pointed out that it was a cider can, not a beer can). I enjoyed this so much, I’m doing a separate little post to show what I did – when I’ve finished transforming the pencil by some wrapping and the zapping…

I used a page decorated with tulip petals rubbed over it, that I did at Mum’s, because I’d bought her a bunch of tulips that were the most glorious colours, and I wonder if they would transfer to paper. But, sadly, they didn’t. So I’ve included a picture of them, just to show how beautiful they were.



And here is a page where I used a balsa wood pen I made myself!!! Isn’t this great? And it is so wonderful to write with pens you’ve made yourself. The  pen is quite broad, and I cut notches in it, and you can write with a corner, or use it upright to print letters made from the edge, ore upright dragging the edge along (the smaller ‘A’s are done with the edge. Used in the usual way you get a fabulous patterned letter.



I tried using a feather but it was not as easy as you think.

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Below is where I used a glittery eyeliner that I was allergic to. You can’t see the glitter and shimmer here, and I certainly didn’t see it when I bought it – and the name and blurb gave no indication. It was only when I put it on that I realised, and even though I took it off fairly quickly my eyes and the skin around them went sore and itchy and red and swollen! Anyway, I’ve put it to good use here.

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Playing with wax crayons. I LOVE wax crayons.



Playing with black paper. Chalk and liquid chalk:


Below: The letters round the edge are written with a Dovecraft Chalk Marker, which doesn’t look at all like chalk – it looks and feels rather waxy. However, on the paper it does look chalky. The big white letters in the centre are written with Tippex correcting fluid. Long, long ago, when reporters wrote their stories on typewriters, we used gallons of this stuff to paint out mistakes (then we typed corrections over it), so we could take ‘clean’ copy to the typesetters. So when I saw a little bottle of it I couldn’t resist. It’s thinner than I remember, and I’m sure it smells different, and the little brush has been replaced by sponge applicator, but I wanted to try writing with it.


More samples on a scrap of black paper stuck on to a page torn from a magazine. The metallic writing look gorgeous, but it doesn’t show in photos or scans.


Experiments with a highlighter and neon fine-liners on scraps of black and white paper stuck on torn magazine paper. Not at all impressed with neon fine-liners.And why did I scribble over the black paper with an old gold oil marker?