Thursday, 27 May 2010

More experimenting

small handmade journal (6in x 4in) showing front and back covers 
(front, right and back, left)

Last night I posted a picture of my latest experiment on my gardening blog - simply because it had to do with the journal I had been making whilst we were visiting the Malvern Spring Gardening Show. But the journal was more significant than its content or the location where it was being made, and as few bloggers will yet know of my embryonic venture into blog gardening, this is the place for explaining my latest experimentation.

I have been working on methods for more easily creating travel journals when we are away using the minimum of materials that can quickly be packed into the confines of our motorhome. As we are always working when we are away, the journals have to be something I can dip into whenever I have the time. Usually, I write far too much text - in a blank travel diary - and it ever gets transferred. In other words, I begin, and do a few pages, but never catch up with myself. And so in my roof space, I have a collection of jute bags lined up, each devoted to a particular location, with materials stashed away relevant to that particular project.

Well all that has to end. And so, for those who are interested, here is what I am now experimenting with - to facilitate the away-day journaling. First I still prep the papers and create the structure of what I will use. In this case, the pages were 180gsm watercolour paper stained with koh-i-nor dyes which I have just discovered. They don't show much on the covers as I knew I wanted more decoration but the inside pages are much more vibrant and colourful. 

The decorations are paper napkins: I separate the layers and iron the top layer onto heat-n-bond lite. As needed, the motifs are cut out and ironed to the page background - I keep any white portions of the cut-away napkin as they are marvellous for adding texture at a later stage and can be coloured with neocolor crayons and gel medium, both of which do not take up too much space. For this journal, all the page edges were prepared at home with strips of flowers down the outside edges of each. The text was stencilled using pen and neocolor. The disadvantage was that the rough surface was difficult to journal on; finding a suitable pen has proved almost impossible. Photos can be easily added; I have a template for positioning and will fix them in with photocorners. I want to take the decoration one stage further so have trialled another technique for our next venture - a trip shortly to Ireland.

This is a page from a blank artist's sketchbook which has lovely smooth paper in a pale tobacco colour (I am addicted to brown paper and brown paper bags!). It is perfect for writing on and here is my first trial of how I could add text to the rough coloured pages of a larger book. My Irish journal has 8in x 8in pages, which I have already prepared in marbled shades of pale green. Bearing in mind to keep supplies to a minimum, I tried spraying with dye overstamping whilst still wet with a fern-leaved stamp and an ordinary stamp pad which allows the ink to run a little. (top of pages). Pieces if this paper can be torn into small panels and added to my journal pages using bits of dyed masking tape. The stylised 'leaf' below is created using cat's-eye chalk-stamp pads quickly drawn around and over with a pen - easy on the smooth surface, and these can be cut out and added with a glue stick. My aim is to be able to create highly decorated pages with the minimum of fuss in the tiniest of spaces (I use the motorhome cab as a studio). There will not be time to add napkin motifs before we leave so today I will experiment with some I have already adhered to the fusible web and will try ironing them onto the page surface with a little Clover mini-iron that we can use in the motorhome.

This post is all words when it should have been so much more visual. I'll post the results at some later stage. Meanwhile, enjoy my little foray into further experimentation. (Oh, and if you click on the images, you can see them at enlarged size; colours are a little weird due to my scanner capabilities.)

Monday, 3 May 2010


photographic image transferred onto muslin

I have SO MANY projects on the go that I am working a little on each one, depending on time, mood, and state of tiredness - no point endeavouring to create something satisfying when you can hardly keep your eyes open.

I manage to get to my tiny worktable almost every other day and am experimenting with techniques new to me, or samples for one of the fabric/paper journals that are in the pipeline - mostly notes in my sketch book. I love to say, "what if ??" and not be afraid of failure.

I was really pleased with the 'muslin photos' that I tried last week that are being made into a collaged background as a sample for one of the journals. Here's what I did. I took two photos - one from our outing to Dover's Hill (a macro shot of fissured tree bark) and one of my very large images from our recent visit to Somerset. I reduced them both to exactly the size of a sheet of Epson Cool Peel iron-on transfer paper. I had to alter the proportions slightly, but all that did was distort the tree bark and elongate the tree trunks which did not matter - both images are being used more as a pattern.

I ironed the whole bark sheet onto muslin - brave of me, as Epson have altered the formula of the Cool Peel and the backing doesn't peel that easily now; most of the time I am scraping the paper away with my thumb nail! But I had bought two packets before realising that the product is no longer the one I know and love, which I have been using for the last few years; so use it I must. I had already determined that the bark image would be patchworked in strips between the tree photo. So I ripped the tree cool-peel into strips before ironing it onto the muslin (see pics above, and thought that would be easier. It made no difference, other than that I was working one strip at a time.

See the pic above which shows the image ironed onto the muslin. It has a lovely painterly feel to it, almost as if it was printed or painted on canvas, and yet is totally pliable. The next stage was was to rip up the bark sheet into strips - it ripped easily and left a rather nice ragged edge - and then tried the same with the tree strips. That was less easy, for I should have spaced them out more; as it was I had to cut and fray the muslin, but the edges will roll under and can then be stitched together with the bark strips, onto a calico backing, which I use as a base for all my machined patchwork.

This will give me a background on which to add words, napkin collages (another technique I am experimenting with) and other embellishments. The finished piece will then have the edge added - log cabin patchwork which is my 'hall-mark'. Then I will have one page of an experimental fabric/paper journal completed; a reference point for my experiments. I think I will need to attach a pocket into which to insert the instructions for what I did and discovered, for my memory is failing .... half the time when I achieve a finished result that I like, I cannot remember how I got there!

I will post the page when it is completed; but don't hold your breath, for Raymond and I are off to the Malvern Spring Gardening Show this week when, apart from doing my day job, I'll be experimenting with a different type of paper journaling using dyes, napkin flowers, a little hand-stitching and the poems that I trust will 'happen'. The paper pages are all ready, just need to punch some stitching holes.

wallhanging - the herb garden at Tewkesbury Abbey
(photo image transferred to fine cotton lawn)

Meanwhile, here's one I made earlier - at least five years ago I think. I may have made this for a magazine article, to show how you could incorporate photographic images into patchworked artefacts. This was probably intended to be a cushion cover, but became a wallhanging for my workroom. The photo was taken in the little herb-garden at Tewkesbury Abbey; I liked the fact that one of the abbey butresses appears in the background. The outer fabric is one I cherish - an offcut I bought at least 30 years ago to make myself a dress but instead it's in my patchwork stash in the roof-space; I garner it and only use a little at a time, for special projects. I must through the boxes, for if there is any left, it will be perfect as the page edges for a 12"x12" fabric/paper book to be entitled 'Grandma's Garden', outline thoughts for which are forming on the page. That's for another post.