The Collage Composition Process

As you can see from my recent posts, my collages are often inspired by the juxtaposition of a couple of stamps that have been discovered at random while sorting through a larger batch.  By happy coincidence, they might have similar colours or other features in common Continue reading The Collage Composition Process

Postal Patchwork Prisms

This post is really more of a ‘show-and-tell’ for one of the notebooks I included in my last post’s mini gallery.  I was so pleased with the way it turned out that I decided it justified having a little more of a showcase:

Rainbow Postal Patchwork Pinwheel (large)
Rainbow Postal Patchwork Pinwheel (large)
Rainbow Postal Patchwork Pinwheel (mini)
Rainbow Postal Patchwork Pinwheel (mini)

The pattern began as an expansion of the pinwheel motif on the mini notebook shown right, but when expanded it takes on all new qualities.  The pinwheels combine to produce new illusions – diamond shaped colour-blocks, and an overall prismatic effect.  I realise quilters (etc) are probably quite familiar with how this process works, but it’s a lot of fun to see in action, especially when you don’t know in advance what the overall effect will be.  I love the way the colours play/bounce off each other; would be interesting to experiment with multi-tones of a single colour family, too…

Wow – that was tedious! (But kind of interesting, too.)

Folksy (that’s the Etsy of the UK) has very recently undergone something of a makeover.  Now I’ve got over the initial surprise at the change in appearance, I think I’m decided it’s quite a clean and funky new look.  What’s tedious about that? Nothing!  The tedious part is that alongside the makeover there have been all kinds of tweaks to product listings – so there I was earlier today, wondering what I would do with my evening – and now here it is, gone!  I have been into each of my listings to add minor extra details such as materials used, colours (not especially relevant to most of my stuff), my location (um, could that be made a fixed field, please?) etc.  Yes, those were the tedious bits, and it took forever going into each listing to change everything.  But the interesting addition they have made is a huge space for each listing headed ‘inspiration’ .  This sits just next to the product description beneath the photo on the item page, so there is the appearance of columns (yes, like a newspaper; yes, that’s one reason why I like it).  Hmm.  Yes, it was probably this which took up my evening…

I found it interesting that when I was pinpointing the inspiration for a particular project, I found that in some cases I was providing information that I wouldn’t have included under the product description.  I doubt anything I’ve written will be the deciding factor for somebody browsing the store (sarcasm alert: “oh, I must buy this now – she says it was based on a project she took part in!  Wow!”); but on a personal level, I’m always interested in the ideas behind projects, and an item with a story is always more interesting to me than one without.  And also on a personal level, it was a bit of a trip down memory lane figuring out what was my jumping off point or starting brief for some of the older projects.  I’d totally forgotten some things until I set my mind to it.

So anyway, if you’re like me & curious about where an idea began, take a browse around the Folksy TangleStore*, and while you might not learn anything earth-shattering, you might learn a few ir/relevant and/or random extra details that you otherwise might never have known.

I apologise for the overuse of the word ‘interesting’ (& its derivatives) in this post…

P.S.  If you are not in the UK & feeling excluded by all this Folksy talk, don’t!  I’ve decided to go through & add the international shipping option to all the Folksy listings, so they will soon be available to you, too.  Give me another couple of days, though, because I don’t think I can face all that editing again tonight… :S

Makeovers all round

As you may have already noticed 😉 I decided to go for another blog re-design to match the new Etsy header.  I liked the green of the old blog but I love that I could totally kraftify the background of this one – I feel much more at home here!  Still a few minor tweaks needed to finish off, but I’m definitely liking the new look.

I have also revised all the Etsy pricing into £ sterling so that I can stay on the right side of fluctuating exchange rates.  Previously, all prices in the TangleStore were in US$ even though I am in the UK – which obviously, now I come to think about it, did not really make a lot of sense!  The prices you see on Etsy from now on will be a conversion from £ sterling into whatever currency is local to you (according to your own Etsy settings), based on current exchange rates.  You may notice minor variance in price on one or two items, but I have kept things as close as possible to previous pricing, so differences should be minimal.

Long overdue…

Still away from home but happily with internet access, I took advantage of some ‘leisure’ time this morning to make some long overdue revisions to the TangleStore (hey, why did I never think of that portmanteau before?!) header.  The old tapestry header was relevant when the store first opened but has become less & less so, over time.  I thought a hint of TangleMail would be far more appropriate:

I’ve also breathed some life back into the TangleCrafts Folksy Store (or TangleStore UK, as it shall henceforth be known! 😉 ), which I have also neglected for far too long.  I will be adding more items over the next week or so, but there is a good representative selection available already.  The listings here are in £ sterling and only have a UK postage option, so the Etsy Store is still first port of call for international Tanglers, but UK friends now have the choice.  I’m still debating with myself whether or not to switch my Etsy listings to £ sterling currency, also (just a warning in case I decide to go for it & the prices you are used to seeing all suddenly alter slightly)…

A quiet week?

Despite a lack of blogging activity here which may suggest the contrary, I have been busy busy busy all week!  Well, I took a week’s holiday from ‘real’ work – caught up with a friend, saw my mum & dad (my dad has been in China for the last 6 months or so, so that was an especial treat), and went on a day trip with Corey – the highlight of which was probably when he left his umbrella behind on the train there, but found it again on the train back!  But around these brief outings I have been working non-stop.  There are some new things very nearly ready to tell you about, but the most immediate, are 2 new zines (& something else a bit different), now available in my Etsy stores:

Contours cover shotThe first is ‘Contours’, my first art zine, which is all about doodling.  This is where my brief encounter with Zentangling led me.  I suddenly realised how the majority of the patterns I have designed as an adult all stem from one basic doodle that I used to doodle all the time.  The zine looks at how that doodle has emerged in the various crafts I have worked in, considers the possible origins of the doodle, and leaves lots of spaces for you to doodle away to your own heart’s content.

tiffanyacorns1As you can see from the photo, there are some extras included – hand-doodled bookmark to stitch, and a hand-doodled ‘fingerprint’ of lino to carve & print.  Inside the zine you will also find a 4-way Acorns cross stitch chart, Bobbin Along freeform bargello pattern, plus 4 postcards (2 printed, and 2 blank for you to doodle yourself) printed on gummed paper, freeform-bobbin-alongso that you can turn any piece of scrap card into a postcard, (these come with 4 postcard reverse labels which could also be used as envelope re-use labels, if you prefer).  Check out the TangleCrafts Etsy Store for more details.

Papertrail #2 cover shot Hot on the heels of Papertrail #1, you can now also find Papertrail #2.  Papertrail #2 is a zine full of questions and books and reading habits, with answers/opinions from me, Corey, and spaces for your own responses, too.  It’s all about books, and how we live with them.  Alongside everything else is a Papertrails ‘map’ of routes you can take from novel to novel, spaces to design your own book jackets, plus copy-&-cut bookplates & bookmarks.  And as if all that wasn’t enough, Papertrail #2 also includes a free membership pack for the Papertrail Reader’s Club!

The Papertrail Reader’s Club is there for everyone who loves to read.  The Basic Membership Pack includes:Club Package

  • 2 pre-gummed Ex Libris plates
  • 2 recommendation bookmarks left blank for you to personalise
  • and the Member Book:

The Papertrail Readers’ Club Book is a membership card and reader’s record book combined! It is a 20 page, staple-bound mini-booklet, printed on high quality recycled sugar papers. Each book will be personalised with your name and membership number, and date stamped with the start date of your membership. It includes spaces to list all the books you want to read alongside dates started & finished, and there are even pages to fill in with your own mini-reviews! Club Book

Each month, a different book is chosen as a feature title, with review printed inside the back cover.  Club members are eligible to submit their own reviews of the club titles which may earn them a free Papertrail zine!

If you buy any issue of Papertrail, you will receive free membership to the Reader’s Club, including the current month’s club review.  If you don’t want to buy the zine, you can still buy a one-off membership to the club with a Basic Membership Package.  And if you fill your record book quickly, or just want another, a Renewal Membership Package is available at a reduced price.

Told you I’d been busy ;-).  And this is just the tip of the iceberg!

Zentangling

Corey is away for the weekend, so I am luxuriating in having a couple of decadent evenings to myself.  What am I up to?  Well, I’m about to make myself a cheese & pickle sandwich, and am otherwise having an evening off from ‘work’ and just browsing online.  That’s very rare!  And after I’ve made my sandwich, you know what else I might do?  I might actually switch off the laptop and read a novel for a couple of hours.  I’ve not done that for ages!  I know what you’re thinking: this girl’s life is just one long, endless party…  No?  Yeah, I know; it’s not the most exciting evening I’ve got lined up, but  I’m looking forward to it, anyway.

zentangleOh yes, nearly forgot the reason I stopped by here!  The reason was ‘Zentangles’.  I suspect, as with most things, I am way behind the times with this one, but just in case you’re in the dark like I was, it appears to be ‘doodling with intent’ (rather than in absentia) – hence the zen part of the name – and then (because they do look pretty cool) calling them art.  It’s not just the ‘tangle’ part of the name that attracts me (honest).  I had a flick through the gallery (see pic, right) at the official website, and a lot of the patterns just reminded me of the kind of doodles I actually do.  Therefore it didn’t strike me as something that would take an enormous leap for me to grasp the gist of.  And looking through the gallery, I also thought the black & white patterns would lend themselves well to relief printing.  I’m feeling slightly more confident in my lino-cutting skills these days, but drawing isn’t really my thing, and I hit a kind of stumbling block (no pun intended) in terms of new projects & design inspiration.  If I can get away with adapting my doodles, I will be very happy!

Now, the Zentangles website gives lots of background information about how great & therapeutic it can be for the soul, and all that kind of new age stuff, but it’s very thin in practical advice when it comes to getting started – mainly, I would guess, because they sell a $50 starter kit, and they want people to buy it, rather than think they don’t need it.  Personally, I would rather test out the principles of the concept before shelling out $50 on yes, very nice, high quality materials, but really not essential to the practice itself.  Having said that, the website does include a free online newsletter which gives clear guidance on ‘learning’ particular filling patterns, and where to find doodling inspiration etc.  But if, like me, you read through the website and can’t quite see how to get started, you might also appreciate these posts on Crazy Art Girl’s site, which demonstrate a beginner’s zentangle from start through to completion.  It really clarified the concept for me, anyway.

I bought a cool notebook from Bad Day Ben Designs on Etsy a few months back, with good thick quality paper pages measuring 2.5 x 3″ each – I think I might have just found the perfect use for it…!  I’ll let you know how my Zentangle explorations progress…

Oh, one more note ‘Zentangle’ is a trademark name, and I think refers to the method they use to teach the Zentangle doodling technique (hence $50 for starter pack).  However, you can also find references to similar stuff with a google search for the more general ‘zen doodle’.  There are ‘zen mandalas’ which are similar, too.

Bobbin Along – another freeform bargello experiment

Bobbin Along Bargello (freeform) (c) TangleCrafts 2008
Bobbin Along Bargello (freeform) (c) TangleCrafts 2008

It’s another WIP, as (once more!) I have run out of the thread I need to complete the border…  I am also still at the mercy of a temperamental printer/scanner but I’m trying to work around it!

This design posed some interesting challenges for me, although I had learned from ‘Marble Waves’.  I was careful to stretch the bobbin ‘thread’ to fill the first triangular quadrant of the design, so that there would be fewer issues where the mitred corners of the 4-way design meet.  It is still by no means a smooth transition but I think the ‘swooping’ nature of the curves disguises the inconsistency reasonably well, and (by default) actually creates a nice, almost overlapping 4-way pattern when viewed from a slight distance.

Stitching this design prompted various ideas for variations, which I will hopefully have time to explore at a another time.  I like the way a ‘sheet’ of bargello appears to drop behind another bargello wave that crosses in front of it, a result of the ‘thread’ twisting over and around itself.   I think this effect would be emphasised if I worked it on a bigger cut of canvas, increasing the size of the ‘thread’ swirls.  I think it would also be interesting, if working the piece to a larger scale, to make the bargello following the contours of the ‘thread’ into a ribbon of bargello, rather than continuing downwards o fill the quadrant, as it currently does.  This would leave more of the plain, geometrically striped background visible, and add emphasis to the curves contrasting against it.

I also wondered about using a different colour scheme either for the bargello or the plain background.  Again, I think this would only really work if the piece were larger, and more of the background visible.  But the bargello could be in shades of pink-to-plum, to match the bobbin ‘thread’, against a background of contrasting moss-green shades.  I think this would work best combined with the bargello-as-ribbon idea.

Stitching this design has also kick-started the idea for my next design project.  I added the whipped backstitch ‘thread’ in pink as the last step of the central panels, so before it was added, I could just see the green curves against green curves.  Perhaps largely because they were in green (!) this made me think of rolling hills, which prompted me in the direction of a bargello landscape.  This is not exactly a new idea – one of my very first bargello projects was ‘High Desert Stars’ by Iona Dettelbach (shown right), a chart distributed by Rainbow Gallery (click here for my review of Iona Dettelbach’s latest bargello book) – but it set me to thinking about it, and I have something semi-visualised in my head that I am looking forward to realising in stitch.  I’m not sure yet if it will be a 4-way design, like the others (so far) in this series of freeform bargello experimentation.  I’m considering a panelled piece.  But we’ll see how it develops…  Watch this space!

Freeform bargello – Marble Wave update

Marble Wave (c) TangleCrafts, 2008
Marble Wave (c) TangleCrafts, 2008

A friend has very kindly scanned this new version of Marble Wave for me – the main differences being a softer colourway (with greater differentiation between the lightest 2 colours) and a tiered border.  As you can see, this is still WIP, as I have run out of the purple thread, and must wait for a new delivery.  Kits will also be available from that point!

I am much happier with the appearance of this revised version. The colours are from the same family as the original (see right), but much subtler.  I like the fact that the lightest yellow-sea green shade gives the impression of a kind of ‘aura’ around the wave motif.

Janet Perry has recently blogged about this piece, and I hope she won’t mind if I paste what she has written here, as she explains in design terms why it works:

“The design has a central medallion, which is not symmetrical. This makes it lovely, but also makes it difficult to design the Bargello around it so that, while not symmetrical per se, it looks balanced. She achieved this in several ways, which we can apply to our own projects.

1. The space is divided through the two diagonals. The strong line not only highlight the center, but they also divide the space clearly into equal areas.

2. The swirls just outside the central medallion take up much of the space, and turn, so they fill up enough of the quadrants, so symmetry is less important.

3. The overdye comes next and its changing colors make the color change more important to the eye than symmetrical patterns.

4. She uses the different threads in the same sequence, which creates balance. She also uses similar Bargello lines, curves are always on one side of the swirl, spires on the other, which also creates balance.

This is an absolutely wonderful piece.”

Thank you, Janet!

An intro to TangleCrafts & me

A predominantly self-taught stitcher, I have recently decided to venture out into the world to market my own counted thread designs. I’ve been designing for 6 years, & have more patterns & ideas than time in which to stitch them (or in some cases, chart them).  Luckily, I have managed to build a little team of model stitchers who are helping me make some headway.  I can’t – of course – kit a design until I have a photo of the finished stitched pieces to show on the packaging, so this is an essential part of the process.  It also helps me gauge the quantities of thread & fabric to include in kits, find out if instructions need clarifying (something that’s harder to do if I stitch my own models), and in some cases, see things I want to change in the pattern itself.   It’s a great learning curve!

I do a lot less stitching myself than I used to, but I really enjoy the process of the designing, & stitch small samples as I go along, just to make sure things work.  I have lots of ideas I haven’t had chance to try out, yet, but with my stitchers’ help, that mythical day when I will have time to get around to everything is hopefully getting slightly closer.  At the moment, my time is spent mostly fine-tuning existing charts, typing up instructions, & perfecting the layout of the chart/kit packaging. I enjoy designing the packaging almost as much as the patterns themselves – just another aesthetic aspect of the job, I guess.

Of course, the problem with spending a lot of time charting, means that I ALWAYS get sidetracked & see how a spin-off pattern could work, or it will kick-start another idea entirely.  It’s fruitful in one way, but not necessarily productive in terms of actually getting done what I intended to!  But I have limited time for all this work, so I do have to be strict with myself, & prioritise things I would otherwise leave until later.  The ideas & planning notebook is ever-expanding…


There are related projects such as dyeing my own threads & colouring my own canvases which are on the really-need-to-get-done list, too. The charting & kitting has to take priority; but being able to supply my own hand-dyed threads would be a great addition – & I may even have to get some charts re-stitched using the, depending on how successful they turn out to be.  And canvas colouring, although not essential to the current wave of model stitching, will again play a large part in ideas I have for the future.

Why can’t I do everything at once?  I’m sure if I just had a few more hands, & a few more hours in every day, life would be so much easier!