Category Archives: Distant Stitch

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

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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: 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.

‘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.


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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:



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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?








Module 2, Chapter 2


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When I was planning Chapter 2 my aim was to be more adventurous and introduce more colours and patterns into my backgrounds/decorated papers, to make them brighter and more interesting. I’m a bit scared of bolder designs and colours, and didn’t quite know where to start, so I bought an old copy of Ruth Issett’s ‘Colour on Paper and Fabric’, which is tremendously exciting and inspiring for someone like me.

And I had this idea of runing with a theme. Since this chapter is about handwriting, I wanted to decorate my pages using things that create shapes which  look like forms of writing – patterns in landscapes and buildings, ripples on the water, bark on trees,. ploughed fields, castle turrets, brickwork. It hasn’t quite panned out as I hoped, and proved more difficult than I expected, because I used plain, loose papers for a lot of the writing samples I did while I was with Mum, and when I started decorating them (back home) I discovered there’s a fine line between decoration and obliteration, so some of the writing is not very clear, and a lot of the pages are still undecorated. Anyway, I’ll put them up in a separate post.

For this chapter I wanted to work on a different shape, so I opted for a square, and my husband helped me cut  strip off an A4 spiral-bound sketchbook, so I have the square (ish) book I wanted (there is a bit that needs trimming), and a narrow one that will come in useful for something else. I may have to cover them. Or bind the edges. Or both.

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I started work on this bit (researching artists etc) after I got home, but it makes more sense to keep the posts in their correct sequence if I can. And I got a bit sidetracked along the way, but I had fun trying things. I’ve tried to build on what I was doing towards the end of Module 1, to break the pages up to make them look more interesting, and I’ve tried extending some of the pages. A lot of my notes were added in (I used medical micro-pore tape to stick extra sheets in, because it’s got a matte surface, and is fairly clear, and you can write on it, though you have to press hard. We always have some in the house because my younger daughter is allergic to normal sticky plasters, but she’s had a place of her own for years now, so I thought I’d try it in the sketchbook. Fingers crossed that she doesn’t cut herself when she comes a-visiting!

And I’ve added in lots of notes, because I kept forgetting to leave space on the pages, and anyway,I liked some of them so much I didn’t want want to spoil them!

First up is a kind of mind map, looking at the things we use handwriting for (though many have been superseded by computers and other electronic devices). This was really to focus my thoughts and get back into routine, because I felt I’d rather lost my way. I used a Berol italic felt tip for the word ‘Handwriting’and Stabilo fine point felt tips for everything else. The background was drawn with Inktense sticks and smudged with my fingers – it was inspired by the Norman herringbone wall at Tamworth Castle and I didn’t use water with them because I wanted the pattern of lines from the stonework to show. So here is the page:

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And here are pictures of the Norman wall, which provided inspiration for the background. What do you think?

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And my page of notes:

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And here’s a not very legible page about my own handwriting. Background was supposed to be a close-up of section of the wall, chopped up and re-arranged, then copied, in bolder colours, but it’s all way too dark, and the pattern is too dominant.However, it’s given me ideas ideas for the future. In case you can’t read it, the page more or less says: “My Handwriting: I’ve always enjoyed writing things by hand, and like to use an italic fountain pen. However I am the first to admit my writing is a bit peculiar, because it’s such a mix of styles. I like to think of it as a hybrid, like a rose that’s had all its bad qualities bred out of it but, sadly, I suspect scruffy mongrel is nearer the mark! My mother taught me to write, before I went to school, using a pencil to create simple letters. At primary school I progressed to ‘joined-up’ writing, in a traditional, loopy, upright, cursive script, with a dip pen and ink (which shows how old I am!). Biros were available, but were very new-fangled, and considered to be very bad for our writing.”

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My notes in the sketchbook sum up my feelings about this page, and briefly describe the next page:

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And the second half of ‘My Handwriting’ (p3), an even bigger close-up of the wall, with the pattern all going in the same direction, and a little lighter! Much, better I think: (Se above for notes on background).

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Then a brief note (using decorated paper from Module 1) outlining my plans to look at artists using text in their work – Susan Shie and Leon Ferrari, as suggested in the Distant Stitch Workbook for Module 2. But I also want to try and find some others – maybe Tracey Emin and Grayson Perry. And I’d look to look at a couple of calligraphers as well – Denise Lach, because she uses lettering (or lettering shapes and marks) to make wonderful abstract patterns, and Peter Holliday, whose work is beautiful, but much more traditional.

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But at this point I got totally side-tracked by Lichfield Cathedral (which is one of my favourite places – it is such a fantastic building, and has so much history) and while I was there I took a look at the Lichfield Gospels and items from the Staffordshire Hoard, and that was it. How could anyone not want to try and do something! I could have tried to be more imaginative with my writing – something more Anglo Saxon looking perhaps… but the pages, which speak for themselves, are very colourful, and I’ve tried very hard to break the pages up, and get away from my ‘school essay’ approach. I think the pages speak for themselves.

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It’s not easy to photograph the Lichfield Gospels, because the book is in a glass case, but I cut it out, to get rid of the glass and reflections, and stuff you could see through the glass, and it’s not too bad. I’ve got a close-up a bit further down.

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Below is a page using writing on a scrap from an enlargement of my photo of a page from the Gospel – I was trying to see how big it would go before it distorted, and how well it printed. And the other half of the page is painted backing paper from Bondaweb,

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And I tried to extend the page by taping another one to the side:

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This page uses some more of the painted Bondaweb backing, and some fancy tissue paper.

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It folds closed, and on the other side I stuck an enlargement of one page from my photo of the book, and cropped it, because I wanted to try and use it as background for some writing.

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And some notes that I stuck in afterwards, because I forgot to leave a spare page… Front:

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And back:

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Another rather illegible page (I keep reminding myself that if I want text to be legible I need paler, plainer backgrounds). This says: “One of the fascinating things about the Lichfield Gospels is that there are three pages with something called ‘dry-point glosses’ where names have been scratched into the vellum using a quill but no ink. There appears to be three names on each of the the three pages. They are only visible from certain angles, and are very hard to see, and very hard to decipher. You can see them in pictures on a website which uses specialised digital light reflectance transformation imaging (pat of a project to record the pages and chart any deterioration.I tried downloading and printing an image, but couldn’t a clear print. But I like the idea of hidden writing, and this module is all about lettering, so I thought why not have a play!

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The notes on the next page could be clearer as well, so I’ve keyed them in too: “I gathered various writing tools and used each of them to scratch my name. I was surprised at some of the results – I thought the dip pen and the nail would work well, but they didn’t. And on the other hand, a crochet hook and a knitting needle were brilliant.I couldn’t get them to scan or photo clearly, so I used macro to show what it looked like – oddly the print seems to have a textural, 3D quality – it looks raised rather than incised.”

I like the background – I enjoy covering lettering with other letters, but perhaps the colours were a bot strong. Have said that, it’s more legible in reality than it is in the scanned version:

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Experimenting to find the best colour cover for scratch marks:

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And a record of my findings – not very legible (again) I’m afraid. I was trying to  use letter shapes, rather than actual letters, and I like the effect, but paler colours would be better.

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A transcript of the page above in silver ink, on the back of black paper … I used the other side for another scratch mark experiment, and it seemed a shame to waste the paper, so I wrote on this side as well, then taped it into the sketchbook.

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And how cool is this! A quote about secret ‘moon-letters’ from The Hobbit, scratched on black paper with the wooden knitting needle, and rubbed over with a silver metallic pen and silver metallic wax crayon. I just LOVE scratches… I could do patterns, the write over that… Think I’m getting a bit carried away here…

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Using the macro on the camera enabled me to get a close-up of one of my original samples, and I got a better image by holding the paper in the shadow. It should be with the early ‘scratching’ pages, but it got mislaid, so I’ve stuck it in here, and added some other scratch marks on the sketchbook page, then rubbed over it with Inktense sticks, which picked up the texture of a layer of blotting paper I put under the page when I was doing the scratch marks. I  really like the effect.

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OK, I’ve enjoyed messing around with scratch marks enormously, and the other Lichfield inspired pages, though I think I could have tried to do some proper calligraphy on one of them. But you can always at things and think how you might have done them differently, and I’m quite pleased with these. I’ve used brighter colours, and different techniques, and have kept notes as I went along, even if some of them are a bit messy and had to be inserted on scraps of paper!

Anyway, no more wandering for the moment… And to prove it, here’s a page to show I’m thinking about t Artists Using Text in their work. I tried to decorate the paper with all sorts of alphabets, in all sorts of directions. It’s not too bad. Quite effective really. In fact, I quite like it. I like the way you can build up areas of light and dark by  altering lettering and spacing – it’s like building up a blackwork embroidery. Probably you need to think about a bit more carefully – this was a bit random, but I like random. And for each artist I looked at, I’ve tried to do something of my own, in similar style.

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And here are pages showing what I found about Leon Ferrari, with samples of some of his work, much of which I absolutely hated, but I can’t like everything, and they weren’t relevant to handwriting, so I didn’t include them here.

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And here’s my Leon Ferrari look-alike. It’s written on used blotting paper, where the words are smudged, and back-to-front, and they go across the page, and up down, and I thought it all looked suitably distressed and distorted – even the blots are part of it. I I used a fine-liner felt-tip, because I wanted my writing to be a bit thin and spidery, with lines contrasting with the more solid-looking pattern on the blotting paper. This was one of those happenstance things – I looked at the blotting paper (sometimes I use it with my fountain pen, but you definitely need it with a dip pen and ink) – and I thought ‘I could do something with that…

There are actual words here – they’re from World Turned Upside Down (generally known as The Diggers’ Song) by Leon Rosselson, taken from the writings of Gerrard Winstanley, leader of the Diggers in the middle of the 17th century. The Diggers were Protestant radicals, best described as kind of early Communists and environmentalists, with religion thrown in as well – their lifestyle was based on their faith. They set up communes, and believed (among other things) in common ownership of land, and working together on the land for the good of the community. Consequently they were viewed as being  incredibly subversive and dangerous. I’ve always been rather fond them, because they so idealistic, and the folk band my husband was with when I first met him (during the Thatcher era) used to sing this, so it’s got lost of memories, and it seemed very apt for Leon Ferrari – I thought since his own work was so much of a political statement my version should also be inspired by protest (though I’m not sure he would have liked their religion).

Anyway, I loved working on this, and I’m pleased with it, although I don’t think the words in capitals quite hit the mark – they’re a bit unbalanced.

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And here’s the first page of the notes I made: (2)

And the second page. (2)

For the pages on Susan Shie I wanted to try something different, so I used black paper and a white pen, and I stuck a photocopy of her at work on one piece of paper, and wrote on the picture. Then I taped my handwritten text about her on four sheets of paper around the central picture, and put photocopies of some of her work on the back of each sheet. The sheets of paper all fold over flat, and open out like a collapsed box, so the hidden information is revealed.

liked her work, and I enjoyed doing this – I just wanted to try and find a different way of displaying my work, and I seem to have become interested in the idea of secret, or hidden, messages and how they can be seen.

But the whole thing would be better if it were neater. I should have measured and cut the pages more carefully – accuracy matters on something like this.


So I have four pages of text, which aren’t necessarily in the right order, but it dosn’t matter because they do stand alone.

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And I’ve got four images of her work:


I’ve also had a go at doing something in her style. I should have had a go at painting, but it will take too long, so  I ironed a piece of white cotton on to freezer paper, so I could run it through the printer.  This is the first time I have ever done this, and you need a VERY hot iron, and plenty of baking parchment to protect the iron and the ironing board. It enabled me to print off a photo of my husband and I with our elder daughter at her wedding earlier in the year (this is the first time I have ever done this, but I thought I would give it a go, because ordering special printer fabric takes time, and I read about this somewhere, and I had freezer paper in a kitchen cupboard. It works quite well, but you need a fairly firm fabric – anything with a loose weave is no good and doesn’t stick properly. You have to handle it gently, or it starts peeling off before you’ve got it through the printer. And if you leave the freezer paper attached to the fabric while you are working it provides a firmer, more stable surface to write on. Once it’s finished the freezer paper peels off really easily and can (allegedly) be used again… l’ll report back on that at some stage.

Since Shie’s work is intensely personal, I wanted this to be s0mething personal to me, with my thoughts and feelings, and a picture that meant something, which is why I chose the wedding photo – and I had to take a very deep breath before I wrote all over it! In the end I  left the faces, but the more I look at it, the odder it seems… it makes us look as if we are peering through the holes in one of those ‘funny’ boards you find at the fairground or seaside, where there are pictures of headless people, and that’s certainly not the image I want. If I can find a decent pen with a very fine point I will buy it, and go back and write over our faces, in teeny tint writing.

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They got married in an old fort, built in the early 19thC as part of the defences against the French, and it was a lovely building, perched on top of a cliff, with a fabulous view, a private beach and lots of walks nearby. The venue was a very up-market self-catering place, and our daughter and her boyfriend (or should I say husband?) had booked it for five days, so we stayed there with friends and family. The pair of them had made all the decorations for the little ‘chapel-y’ bit where the ceremony took place and the big room where we ate and danced – everything was in lavender and purple, which has always been her favourite colour. They also made little gifts for the guests, they asked me to make heart-shaped embroidered lavender bags, and Lucy painted goody bags for everyone.

His mother and I both read poems at the ceremony – I just about managed to keep my voice steady, but she was so weepy she had to get her husband to take over! And my husband played his guitar and sang for everyone. Our elder daughter, as befits the bride, looked stunning, and our younger daughter was a bridesmaid in a dairy-tale lilac dress. We all ate too much (a sumptuous vegetarian feast) and drank too much, and my husband and I both cried because our daughter was so happy, and looked so stunning, and because she and her sister have grown up into such amazing people. It was the only time I have been professionally made-up (my daughter booked someone for her and the bridesmaids, so they did me as well) and I wrecked it by crying!!! How silly is that!

As you can probably tell, it was all very emotional, not just the wedding day, but the whole week really, so this picture means a lot to me, and the words (which you can’t really read properly) are all about our incredible time.


It was actually quite scary writing on this – it must take a lot of courage to write on a painting, or something you’ve created fabrics and threads. Once you get going it’s quite soothing in an odd sort of way, and it’s a very personal and individual way of recording an occasion or a moment in time. It  really is an expanded photo, with descriptions of what happened, and what people wore, and how I felt, and odd bits and pieces. I can see why Shie describes her quilts as ‘personal diary work’.

However, it’s probably easier to do something like this on a larger scale.Even cushion size would have been better since it’s tricky to write very small on something that’s roughly eight-inches square, so the writing tends to dominate when it should be in the background. Better pens might help – the ones my father used (he was a draughtsman) would been have perfect but we gave them to a friend after he died.

And on reflection, I should have given more consideration to the direction of my text, and tried to have a bit more variation in size perhaps, and one or two places I went completely adrift – poor Lucy’s arm got included with her body, which looks a bit peculiar. But on the whole I am pleased with it. I had an idea, and I ran with it as a memento of a very special day, and thought about it, and tried different things (again) and if it hasn’t quite worked out as it should it doesn’t matter.

Next up is Mira Schindel, and it’s all there on the pages:

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Below is my effort at producing something in similar style. I used deli paper (no rice paper hand, and this is transparent!), and dropped letters from my box of oddments on to a sheet of paper, then tried to copy them. There are those lovely little alphabet sweets like solid blocks of sherbet (just think of the calories!), and rubbers, and plastic stick-on shapes, and foam shapes, and a card shape, and beads, and other bits and pieces.

But somehow, even though I like her work, this didn’t gel. I didn’t have a clear idea of what I was trying to do – in fact, I don’t think I had any idea, and I didn’t find a personal connection to kick start me. It’s just letters on the page, but some are written on the back, because it is transparent. Anyway, here’s the front:

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And here’s the back:

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Let’s write that one off and turn to Denise Lach, whose work I like very much indeed – I find her very inspirational. And excuse the backgrounds – I scribbled over the pages to try and take the edge off all that white… I need to go back and try a colour wash (as long as it doesn’t wash out the words!).

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This was my effort. I went back to my photos of Tamworth Castle, and chose another shot of the wall, from a slightly different angle, because I wanted to try something slightly different (again), rather than doing it face-on as it were. These were really working notes, a kind of sample, on scrap paper, because I wasn’t sure if I could do it. I didn’t get the angle and perspective quite right, but the general impression is there, and I’ve tried a thinner end of the pen, and the thicker end, and I just wrote letters, trying to elongate them and make them into angular shapes, so they echoed the shape of the bricks in the wall. The pen is a double-ended calligraphy felt-tip, so the ‘nib’ bits have nice, straight edges, which is perfect for something like this.

I was going to do a neater copy, or finished version, but I quite like this as a work in progress, recording the development of an idea, and that’s what this kind of sketchbook is all about. On the whole I tend to forget that. I loved doing this, even if it’s not quite right, but things don’t have to be perfect, and sometimes the journey is important rather than the destination, so I have a note here of something I like, that I could explore further in the future.

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I also got inspired by some of the scripts in Journeys in Calligraphy, like this one, which reminded me of Pitman’s shorthamd. And I thought, well shorthand is a form of writing and communication, and it’s kind of secret (unless someone else can read it),  so I must be able to do something…

Again, these are more notes, thoughts and scribbles that I can go back to. I know we weren’t asked to try producing work in the style of other artists, but I’ve enjoyed messing around, and it’s made me step a bit further away from the ‘school notebook/essay’ approach and realise it’s fine to make mistakes, and to show early ‘workings’ and experiments, and to have unfinished things that can be developed at a later stage (the final page definitely needs taking a stage further – .I was experimenting with ink and a bamboo pen).

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Activity 2.1.4


Activity 2.1.4

Make a collection of recycled papers

Begin to collect papers and envelopes which can be used in later chapters in this module. Try to include newspapers, magazines, gift wrap, junk mail, brown parcel wrapping paper, tissue paper, paper bags, brown and white envelopes. You can include old maps, letters, bills, photocopying etc if you wish as the papers can be torn, layered and painted over so personal details can be torn out or painted over. A very good way to recycle the large quantity of paper we acquire in our homes.

As I’ve said before, my stash of ‘inspirational’ things and the hoard of ‘recycling’ seem to have got a bit muddled up. But here’s a photo of the recycling box, with stuff spilling out of it. I know I’ve used this before, but it really doesn’t look very different – just more so, if you know what I mean!