March’s theme was all about biological litter: bones, seed pods, shells, fossils, feathers and other remains of living things. Some I’d collected over the years, some I picked up during the month, and some loaned by a friend. Two were fakes.
They were painted with Casein on some kind of particle board (maybe marine ply) I picked up at Resource Rescue and prepared with primer and clear gesso. I set up on the craft room table with a spotlight – one thing I missed from the toy painting was doing interesting shadows.
I didn’t like Casein at first. It’s not as forgiving as gouache, thickening and drying out quickly. When I painted the red-orange leaf I found I could not get the richness of yellow I needed. the set I’d bought contained Naples Yellow, which seemed to create a dull orange when mixed with red. The red that came with the pack is Rose Red which was very pink, and I was glad I’d bought Alizarin as an extra.
Fortunately, I did not need Cerulean Blue for any of these, as it was the colour the shop forgot to include in the package.
I first learned about casein paint in one of James Gurney’s YouTube videos. He uses it as an underpainting for gouache and watercolour because it doesn’t reactivate with water. I found it did. However, in a recent video he demonstrated which paints reactivate and the casein did so. Looking close at the Alizarin tube, which appears to use an older label design, it says that it become “insoluable with time and exposure”.
By the end of the month I liked casein better and felt I had the hang of using it, but I still prefer gouache. Having thirty-one paintings, most of which I reckon are good enough to sell, left me feeling pleased with myself. But I also had a VERY sore back, and I chose the fastest medium I could think of to do in front of the tv for the next theme.
The first warp I wound on my new horizontal warping mill was for a set of Summer and Winter tea towels in 16/2 cotton that I’m calling “Wonky Blocks”. They were to be a Christmas present for a friend. Needless to say, they didn’t get them in time.
The first snag was the realisation, halfway through measuring the warp, that I wasn’t going to have enough yarn. So I ordered more. When the yarn arrived I picked up the cone holder and realised the yarn in it had 8/2 written on the side of the cone. Not only had I wound half of the tea towel warp in the wrong thickness of yarn, I had used this 8/2 cotton with the 16/2 pink for both warp and weft of the pinwheel towels.
Well, the pinwheel towels look fine and maybe the thicker thread will make them thirstier. 8/2 cotton warp wasn’t going to work for the Summer and Winter tea towels, however, because then the ground yarn would be thicker than the pattern yarn. So I set what I’d wound of the warp aside and, starting from scratch, wound a new warp in 16/2 cotton, put it on the loom and got weaving.
For the pattern yarn I wove 16/2 doubled, on my double pirn shuttle. It was a fun weave, but progress was slow. I just couldn’t seem to fit weaving sessions into my days. It seemed like I only made progress during Zoom class sessions. One of the problems was that the pattern doesn’t go all the way to the end, leaving a ten end boundary of plain weave. That meant moving the pattern shuttle through the warp to the top or bottom at both ends of each pick.
This is a six shaft design, so I ought to have put those ten stitches on either side on the last two shafts, but I hadn’t thought of it until I started weaving. When I got to the end of the first tea towel I snipped off those pesky ends and tied on new ones weighted at the back of the loom after threading them through the last two shafts – which meant I didn’t lose any warp length by cutting off the first towel and tying on again.
Weaving was MUCH faster after that. However, I now found that I kept making mistakes with the box pattern. Mistakes that weren’t worth going back to fix, so I decided there was just going to have to be variations between towels. Then it occurred to me that it would be fun to get a dice and roll it to decide the box heights. Numbers 1 & 2 equalled a box 8 picks high, 3 & 4 meant 16 picks high and 5 & 6 were for 24 picks. So for the third towel I did that, though not strictly. I didn’t want really big boxes.
More than three months after I started I was under pressure to finish because I needed the floor loom for one of the class projects. The rethreading and using the dice made it fun, though. Then just like that, they were almost done. I save the last few design rows and the hem until the recipient was here, and could see how they were made. I sewed the hems and gave them to her that day, which meant I had to leave the washing and snipping off of ends for her to do.
I’d definitely weave this design again. If we didn’t still have a set of handwoven tea towels still going strong I’d do a set for us with a red, white and black theme. But we have plenty of tea towels. What I need, however, is more dishcloths. They’re high on the to-do list, on which the 8-shaft course project is the topmost item now.
February is a short month so I decided I should tackle something challenging that I might not like, but also something I could do in front of the tv, like the hands and feet sketches, so I had a rest from dedicating part of every morning to painting.
In the end I picked a double challenge: Copic markers (which I’ve barely used before), and cars (which I’ve always found harder to draw than I expect). I didn’t end up doing them in front of the tv, however. Somehow I got stuck in the morning art groove and continued working on the same table in my craft room I’d set up for the toys and food paintings.
Preparation was much easier than for January’s food theme. I simply watched YouTube videos and stocked up on Copic colours. Of course, on the first day I found I didn’t have enough of the right colours for cars. All that chrome requires a variety of warm and cool greys. I also needed a blender pen. Off to the art shop again – and another trip later when I couldn’t get the right pinks for a friend’s car.
As far as mediums go, this was all new to me so I learned the most out of the themes so far. Alcohol ink markers are like watercolours on sticks… except when they’re not. The pigment is much more controllable than in watercolours, but it can be pushed around. I especially liked being able to use one pen to pick up a bit of colour scribbled on plastic, to get hues between those I had. A fine white gel pen was good for highlights, but I discovered I could then colour those highlights by drawing over them with the Copics.
The popular method is to start with black outlines and fill in with colour. Since I’d like to be able to use Copics for urban sketching in a painterly fashion, I wanted to see if I could lose the black outlines. First I bought a set of grey fine liners, then later I tried just using the markers.
There aren’t 28 pics below because the drawing of parked cars seen from above was done over three days. That seemed reasonable when I was drawing a car a day and there were several in the picture.
Once again, getting good photos proved difficult as the special marker paper seemed to reflect a lot of light, exaggerating the shadow to the right. I’ll have another go at getting good pics when I put these in the art pages in the menu.
I know how it looks. All this art and no craft. But you’ll have to trust me – craft IS happening. It’s just not being finished.
I’m still weaving the tea towels on the Lotas. When I tried finishing the Theo Morman inlay project that had been on the rigid heddle loom I struggled with the sticky warp for a bit before deciding the inspiration was gone. The fine warp came off and I’m now weaving a plain white scarf from the ground warp.
Most of my weaving has been class samplers, and I’m not going to post about those again until nearer the end of the course. Which I’m starting to look forward to finishing. It’s not that I’m over the weaving and learning, but just a bit tired of doing a course. I’ve been thinking about why, and I reckon it’s partly because I’m tired of uncertainty. Will my health take another dive? Will my parents suddenly need all my attention? Will WW3 start? I have a strange itch to get it done while I still can.
But then, maybe it’s just because I’m really enjoying art at the moment. Life drawing classes have restarted and I tried doing a nude from life in oils the other day and was surprised to find I could do a reasonable painting in the time we had. Aside from a few back issues, my daily art practise is still going strong. It’s amazing me how all these finished pieces are building up. I’ve gone from two portraits plus a handful of pet paintings per year, to potentially 365 small artworks.
Of course, I already know that dedicating an hour or so a day can accumulate to big achievements because that’s how wrote the first draft of my last few books. The question I’m asking myself now is… what else could I tackle in this way?
That’s another reason I’m looking forward to finishing the weaving course. I want to put what I’ve learned, both in weaving and art, into practise, but I have only so much energy to spend, and a good part of it is taken up (sporadically) by classes and weaving samplers. I am, however, looking forward to doing the final year project, which is a finished object woven using one of the techniques we’ve explored.
Preparations for January’s daily art theme began a few months before the start date, when I tested all the tubes of acrylic paint to see if I had a full set of the colours I like to use and if they were still viable. A few tubes were dried up but most were okay, which is amazing because I think I bought some of them more than 20 years ago.
For the ground, I fancied painting over text of some kind – perhaps a book – so I grabbed two old magazine pages and tried priming one with gesso and the other with a clear binder medium. I preferred the gesso. Next came a hunt in op shops for a suitable second-hand recipe book, with matte paper and sewn binding. Well, it turns out most recipe book pages are shiny but I did eventually find one with mostly matte paper. Perfect bound, but that’d have to do.
Then came gluing pages into sets of four. I started by sticking two together, then the third on top, then the fourth. But that came out wonky. Since the first two pages had adhered together nicely, I glued the rest of the pages into pairs, then stuck pairs together. Much better. Then, because I had a few extra pages, I cut out the ones that had shiny-surfaced photos on them.
Next, I gessoed all the pages a spread at a time over several days. When they felt completely dry pressed the book under several heavy books.
All this time I really didn’t know if it any of this would work, but when Jan 1st came and I did the first painting, I was happy with the result. It helped that my painting approach was a bit looser than the toy paintings. Instead of looking for a complimentary colour for the background I chose a similar colour, and let it be brushstrokey and not hard-edged. The objects had only a thin bit of shading at the base of each object. This approach gave the pictures an interesting flatness, even while the object was three dimensional.
It took me a while to get the hang of the paint (and to remember that drying retardant makes it a lot easier to work with under air-conditioning!) as I haven’t used acrylics for 20 or so years. The first objects were a bit wonky looking, but I liked embraced that, deciding to not aim for the lettering on packaging to be exact.
I expected taking individual photos of the inflexible, wonky pages to be near impossible, and I was right…
Where did they go? It seems like the last month passed in a flash. I’ve thought about writing a post several times, but nothing was quite blog-ready. Not that I wasn’t doing anything arty or crafty, it’s just that none of it was at a good stage to blog about. So here’s my work-in-progress:
Weaving: there’s a set of tea towels on the Lotas, and I’ve done a bit of class work.
Art: the daily art challenge continues. In February I drew cars using alcohol ink markers. It was a big learning curve, but I really enjoyed that. I was pretty tired of cars by the end, though – something I suspected would happen so I picked a short month for it.
March up is “Nature’s Remnants”: shells, seed pods, bones, feathers, fossils, dried leaves, etc., which will be a nice contrast from manmade object. It wasn’t on my list of subjects, but I decided to bring together ‘cats’ and ‘dogs’ and make it a ‘pets’ theme, which will allow me to draw other kinds of pets as well. That gave me room for a ‘wild card’ subject. I’m using casein paint on sealed and clear gessoed plywood boards. I’ve not used casein before, or painted on boards. The first painting was definitely a journey of discovery.
I also tried the local art association’s portrait workshop, which was great. Lots of very talented artists in there.
Sewing: nothing since January, but I’ve done a lot of thinking about what sort of clothes I’d like to make, and whether the weaving course final project will be a garment or not.
Other: I painted a huge backdrop for a James Bond party. It’s too big to keep, so it’s waiting to be dismantled. I’m a bit sad about that, but that’s the trouble with props. If you do a good job, you’re going to regret having to destroy it at the end.
One thing I do remember about the month is lots of garden contemplation. I’m planning changes to make it easier to maintain now I have an unsteady leg and less stamina. There’s going to be some serious landscaping happening in winter to improve access, and the last six months of vege garden failure is an extra motive to simplify that area, too.
‘Adapt and simplify’ is my motto of the year, and the garden is definitely one area that needs both.
For the daily art of December I drew hands and feet in various kinds of pencil in an old A4 blank book. Which was much faster than the gouache paintings, and since I worked mainly from photos it could be done while watching tv in the evening.
I don’t feel I’d learned as much in December as I did in October and November, but I did gain some insights. Like that feet are nowhere near as interesting to draw as hands. Hands are more expressive. Full colour wasn’t as easy as monochrome, or using two colours in monochrome fashion, but even on days when I was up for the challenge I found full colour less satisfying. Monochrome just looked nicer.
Photographing the drawings was more difficult than I expected, with the paper showing shadows no matter how I fiddled with lighting, and no amount of adjustment of the file fixing the problem. That’s why it’s taken me so long to publish this post. Eventually I just gave up and let them be as they are.
I am so far behind now that I have all the January daily art to photograph and post now. The theme – food – was what I originally wanted to do for December, until I realised I wouldn’t have the time with Christmas and other distractions.
Recently a friend hosted a Stitch’n’bitch at her house, with the stitching being sewing and the bitching being much-missed in-person conversations. I was looking forward to it so much I reorganised the stash the week before and picked out four potential projects to do on the day. One required making a pattern which requires concentration so I figured I should do that beforehand. Then I figured everyone would be wanting to cut their fabric at the start, so I did that too.
A few days later I decided to also cut out the pieces for another project, which was a make-it-up-as-you-go kind of project and needed my full attention. It was a petticoat with a lot of fussy gathering, so I got that part out of the way. Which left only a few seams to do. I figured I only needed three potential projects to do on the day and finished it.
On the day I started with the pre-cut project – a pair of pyjama pants:
Once they were done I cut and sewed a pair of shorts:
The third project was another pair of shorts, but it was evening by then and I decided I’d done enough. I’m not 100% sure I want to make shorts from that fabric anyway.
The next day I tackled another project: two nightdresses in organic cotton knit that I picked up on sale when I was only supposed to be buying press stud tape to fix our doona cover. It was a good discount! And my old nightdresses are developing holes.
The pattern is a simple knit dress design I made years ago for a costume. I’d lengthened and adjusted it for fit, and cut the pieces for one dress, during the week.
When I went to cut the second dress I ran out of fabric. I’d assumed I’d get both fronts and backs across the width. Is it me or do fabrics seem to be narrower these days? I wound up cutting the front in two pieces, divided at the waist, and had to abandon idea of pattern-matching. Thankfully, only Paul and I will ever see these close up.
All in all, I got five projects finished in less than a week, and only one of them counts as a new garment added to my wardrobe (underclothes and nightclothes don’t count). Two were made of fabric from destashes. I’m still feeling inspired but getting a warp on the Lotas and cleaning the house have priority this week.
Hollow Empire Sam Hawke We Lie With Death Devin Madson Clariel Garth Nix Goldenhand Garth Nix Mask of Mirrors M. A. Carrick Rivers of London Ben Aaronovitch The Bone Shard Daughter Andrea Stewart Moon Over Soho Ben Aaronovitch Whispers Underground Ben Aaronovitch The Fabric of Civilization Virginia Postrel Broken Homes Ben Aaronovitch Foxglove Summer Ben Aaronovitch Mystery of a Hansom Cab Fergus Hume The Hanging Tree Ben Aaronovitch What Abigail Did That Summer Ben Aaronovitch Colour Choices Stephen Quiller The Furthest Station Ben Aaronovitch Steal Like An Artist (re-read) Austin Kleon Absolute Sandman Volume One Neil Gaiman The October Man Ben Aaronovitch Show Your Work (re-read) Austin Kleon Absolute Sandman Volume Two Neil Gaiman Sapiens Yuval Noah Harari False Value Ben Aaronovitch Absolute Sandman Volume Three Neil Gaiman The One Hundred Nina Garcia Tales from the Folly Ben Aaronovitch Atlas of the Heart Brené Brown Keep Going Austin Kleon
29 books! Compared to 15 last year and 13 the year before. The year before I read 20, which was the year I took five months off so proves that when I don’t write I read more.
The best fiction books of the year was The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart, the best non-fiction was The Fabric of Civilization by Virginia Postrel, the best conversation starter was Atlas of the Heart by Brené Brown, and the most motivating book was Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon – which was well worth revisiting.
I’ve given up defeating my to-read ‘pile’ (which fills a small bookcase) and now read whatever catches my eye and keeps me enthralled, though I’m only buying books to complete series. I’ve actually stuck with one author until I’d read everything, which felt like a luxury because I used to only read the first or most loved book or series of an author in order to sampling as many different examples of my field as possible.
I still have enough of a professional interest that I want to try new authors – particularly female Australian authors of fantasy series. It’s exciting to see how far we’ve come in the last 20-30 years.
In January I took up the offer of a fresh indigo dyeing workshop with Amanda of @theweaversworkroom which was great fun. Later at home I had a play with indigo that I’d grown.
I ran a pin loom workshop at the Guild. Though I told myself I wouldn’t put in the crazy hours of preparation I did for the rigid heddle loom workshop the year before, I still overdid it. Still, it was an excellent reason to try some ideas I’d had, like tiny squares woven from wire.
Using fabric for a failed all-in-one-piece woven jacket project, I sewed a vest.
In February the sewing continued, resulting in two tops made of woven fabric.
And a skirt to jumper conversion. This became my go-to at home cosy jumper over winter.
I wove the “Owl & the Moustache Scarf” and started the “Wiggle Scarf”, both using drafts I designed after the Denise Kovnat Echo and Jin and Deflected Doubleweave workshops the year before.
In March I converted an ugly old 80s coat into the Flying Fox Coat.
In April I made a pattern from a corduroy shirt I love, and sewed a new one. And a chemise to go with a costume for a Regency Picnic.
I also returned to weaving rag rugs, making two twill flannelette ones and a t-shirt one to use up the warp.
Jeanette at the Guild ran a blended drafts workshop that was fun and a good workout for the brain.
June had me taking two pink flannelette rag rugs off the floor loom and another t-shirt one.
And a clasped warp scarf from the AKL.
Then I sewed a series of skivvies, long-sleeved tops and leggings. And another corduroy shirt.
The sewing continued into July. More leggings, more tops, and a jacket made from an old skirt and jumper.
At the end of July I started the Certificate of 8-shaft Weaving at the Guild, just in time for the long lockdown to begin. I also wove a shadow weave kit.
And finished lengthening a vest.
September saw me finish making two indigo space-dyed chenille scarves and a cowl.
In August I bought a new sewing machine, an overlocker and a coverstitch machine, so in September more garments were made.
Some slubby cotton was woven to reduce the stash.
I also did a seven day sketching challenge, and decided to start a daily art project in which I make art every day for a year, to a theme that changes each month.
In October I wove a pinwheel scarf.
The first daily art challenge was ‘flowers’, painted mostly in watercolour but with a bit of gouache.
Since online shopping was unreliable and the post very slow, I decided to make as many Christmas presents as possible. I sewed some sunhats for my parents.
Inspired by a ‘weaving with handspun’ Zoom meeting with the Guild, I wove two twill scarves.
November’s daily painting theme was ‘toys in gouache’. This was much more time-consuming than the flowers, but I was making much more ‘finished’ pieces that could be sold one day. I haven’t painted in gouache much before and it’s now one of my favourite mediums.
By December I was having health problems including pain and weakness in my left leg. I was only able to weave one of the sets of tea towels I intended to make as gifts.
But the daily art theme of ‘hand and feet in pencil’ was much faster and could be done at night while watching tv.
(Sorry about the terrible photo!)
Between Christmas and New Year not much craft was done but I made a warping mill and yarn stand.
Overall, it was a year that began low and ended high both in mood and levels of stress. That kind of balances out.
Though restrictions had eased, I began the year feeling depressed. Eventually I decided that teaching weaving didn’t suit me – at least not as a regular thing. The summer school workshops I’d done were good but too exhausting and, weirdly, put me off the kind of weaving I taught for several months. Occasional one on one lessons would be fine, I think.
So it was with a different intent that I began the 8-shaft course. The pursuit of knowledge was now for my own benefit only. Meanwhile, the long lockdown brought art classes to an end, and questioning why I didn’t paint at home led to the daily art project and the realisation that art would suit me as a regular thing – so long as I didn’t turn it into work.
Then at the end of the year I learned I have a rare condition that can be quite crippling and might explain the neck pain flare ups that sometimes come out of nowhere and forced me to retire. It made me consider a future in which what I can and can’t do may be very limited at times, and how I might change my surroundings and expectations to allow for that.
Despite this, I am ending 2021 feeling happier than I began it. I am ready to let the past go, and the future no longer seems lacking in purpose. There will be some tidying up and simplifying to be done in 2022, but there’s no hurry. I can only do things at a pace that my body can cope with, and it’s still impossible to predict how Covid will affect everything anyway.
What I do know is, whatever happens, good or bad, there’ll be art and craft in my life in 2022.