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.

DSCN7219 (2)

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.

DSCN7060 (2)

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.

DSCN7150 (2)

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.


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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:

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And the second page.

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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!


Activity 2.1.3


Activity 2.1.3

  • Collecting words and letters for inspiration.
    Begin to collect examples of text. Search newspapers and magazines, advertising materials, old greetings cards etc and cut out those which appeal to you. Paste them in your sketch book.
  • Take your camera with you when you are out and about and take shots of letters and numbers in the environment. It could be a signpost, a house sign, numbers on a bus, direction signs at the station, labels in the market, posters pasted on a window. Begin to look for interesting shapes and colours. Choose your favourites, print and paste into your sketch book. 

Right, let’s get this show on the road again! I have had a break because my mother was ill, and I dashed off in a hurry, and spent weeks looking after her. Fortunately, she is much better now, so I’m sorting out the rest of Module 2, Chapter 1, which was more or less done, but couldn’t be posted because I had no access to the internet.

This activity is the one about searching through magazines and such like for text that inspires you. However, I seem to have gone off at a bit of tangent, and all sorts of lettering has appeared – print, handwriting, inscriptions on monuments, painted tiles and all sorts of oddments like alphabet rubbers and alphabet spaghetti. And somehow the whole thing has merged into 2.1.4 (the one about recycled paper), and I’ve amassed all sorts of cuttings, books, photos and object, which keep getting muddled up together, even though I keep trying to sort them out. Some of them are things I like, and some are things I found interesting or quirky.

I’ve tried to display them artistically, with notes about  the history of some things, and what I’ve done, but I must remember that I need to write more clearly on decorated surfaces. I went over some of my handwritten text in darker colours, with varying degrees of success – some of them look a bit fuzzy.

But I have remembered to scan pages on to the computer at a higher resolution, which should make the images better. But they are still not that wonderful, and the colour reproduction is very poor on the whole. Either I’m doing something wrong, or I need a decent printer. Anyway, here we go. First up, an explanation of what I’m doing, which is really notes for myself, but I’ve included the pages here anyway.

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The next two are self explanatory I think:

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And so is this, written with a white Uni-ball on black paper:

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And here I’ve used a silver pen on black pen, but my writing is not to be compared with the wonderful lettering produced by the 12th century scribe who worked on the Mappa Mundi:

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The sketchbook pages still speak for themselves… And I couldn’t resist including something from an old decorated manuscript, because pages like this are so beautiful:

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I love the lettering on these tiles in Postman’s Park, which is one of those hidden corners of London, and is one of my favourite spots in the city. I like the way each tells a story, however brief it may seem, because each story is true, and I love the whole rather grandiose concept of a monument to heroic self-sacrifice – I’m sure only the Victorians could have thought of this:

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Another tile, but this one has been photographed and turned into a card, which I’ve mounted so I can still open it, and the mounting unfolds as well, so I could print a bit about the artist:

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I made a collage on the page below, with bits cut out from a nursery rhyme book – the font and illustrations for each rhyme have been designed to match the words and feeling, and it’s all so jolly. and so well done, I’m sure it would inspire a love of words, poems and stories in any child, as well as a love of colours, lettering and pictures. I used children’s fancy-edged scissors to cut the pieces. I couldn’t resist including the mouse – I think he’s gorgeous!

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Next is a bit of an oddity – the pages are about an Elizabethan painted room, which includes text passages, and I’ve included it because it’s so unusual:

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Another collage… Logos and brand names this time:


And this (below) is my ‘Mother of the Bride’ goody bag that Lucy, my elder daughter, made to hold favours at her wedding. She bought little paper carrier bags (I’ve scanned it in lying on a sheet of A4 paper, to give an idea of the size), and she painted one for each guest – all with lavender on the front and the person’s name in purple writing, which is why I’ve included it here. She and her husband made up little gifts to put in each bag, and also asked me to stitch embroidered heart-shaped lavender bags, which took a lot longer than I planned (all in shades of purple, and each one slightly different), but was very enjoyable, and very soothing – the wedding was back in February, and the house stills smells of lavender! Anyway, I am using my bag to store a selection of postcards, bookmarks and other bits and pieces, all bearing some kind of lettering.

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I’m leaving it at that! I seem to have so many bits and pieces, and photographs and stuff, I think I’ll just try and use some of them as I go along! And I don’t think I’ve got any photos of shops – shops are usually boring, and they’re nearly all part of national chains, with a brand image. What I like is signs, milestones, notices on monuments, gravestones, really old shop or advertising signs, and stuff like that – mementos of places I’ve been to or know and love. So that’s what I’ve got.