Planet Textile Threads

June 25, 2017

Margaret Cooter

Paint marks and stitch marks

As we get nearer to finishing the renovations, more painting is going on - and has left "impressions" on the material used to protect the floor -

The CQ Summer School retreat has got me enthusiastic about stitching again, and the production of "chimney pots" continues -
Stitiching in the park - using what's to hand -
till receipts for my lunch

Stitching while watching art on youtube
That one is finished, solidly stitched, but *!£! Blogger isn't accessing the updated googlephotos to allow the recent photos to be added. Grr.

So today on the way to a lovely course about Veteran Trees in Greenwich I started the stitching on a new one -
It's about the inside as well as the outside

Coming along...

by Margaret Cooter ( at June 25, 2017 08:05 PM

Terry Grant

Hot pad tutorial

Here is hot pad #7. This one is definitely approaching "really good" in my opinion. It hits most of my marks—invisible seams, front and back and nearly jogless stripes. The best method for smoothing the jogs yet, but I'm beginning to believe there is no way of getting them perfect, especially narrow stripes.


There was interest in my recipe for the "seemingly seamless diagonal-knit" hot pad, so here goes....

First, credit where credit is due. This is the pattern I started with. It makes a perfectly good diagonal hot pad, with the clever fold. You could be happy stopping right here, but I wanted to see if it was possible to eliminate the seams that run diagonally across the front and back. I found the answers on the internet, especially on YouTube. I will post the relevant links at the bottom. So kudos and thanks to all the smart people who figured this stuff out and then generously shared it with the world!

The basic pattern has you knit a tube that is open at both ends. Later you sew each end closed. I could eliminate the first seam by casting on using Judy's Magic Cast-on (link below). I used 2 size 7 circular needle pairs. They need to be at least 24" and can be longer.

I am using worsted weight cotton yarn. Some of the brand names are Sugar and Cream, Peaches and Cream and Premier Home.

Cast-on 50 stitches on each needle—100 stitches total. This cast-on gives you a row of knitting that can be knit into on both edges, so after casting on, you knit around the cast-on row, continuing in the round, to knit a flattened tube that is closed at the bottom. To do this, you need to know how to knit in the round using 2 circular needles (link below)

Place a marker where the rows begin and another at halfway around. Continue knitting in the round, making sure to keep the stitches tight at those two spots where you switch needles. Add stripes if you wish, starting the new color at the marker that begins a new row. (There is a link below with a technique for smoothing out the jog at the beginning of a new stripe.) before long your knitting should resemble a small canoe! You can continue to knit with both sets of circular needles, or switch to just one set once it is a couple inches high. I can knit faster using just one set.

As it gets bigger you can push the sides down and begin to see how it will go from straight across knitting, to diagonal.

Knit until the sides are half the measurement across the bottom edge. Mine was 11" wide, so I knit until the sides were 5 1/2" high. Your measurements may vary.

Cut your working yarn, leaving a good tail. Secure the end by weaving it into the inside. Do not bind off.

Starting at the row marker, slide 25 stitches onto your second circular needle, then slide those stitches down the cable and slip the marker and 25 stitches on the other side of the cable onto the same circular needle. You have now redistributed half of the stitches onto each of the two sets of needles, with the markers in the center of each set of stitches. This is hard to explain, but hopefully the photo below will help.

Now you are ready for the second invisible seam!

Cut a piece of yarn at least 5 times the width of the opening and thread it onto a tapestry needle. Tie the end to the bit of yarn right between the needle at one end of the opening.

Then use Kitchener stitch (link below) to close the opening.

Secure the end and bury the tail between the two layers. You may need to use a crochet hook to tighten and even up the Kitchener stitches before you secure the yarn (I did). Steam press, shaping the square and adjusting and straightening the stripes. Done!

If you've never done some or all of these techniques, be patient. I found them pretty confusing, needing multiple attempts and rewatching of the videos. That's why I made hot pads—they are quick, cheap and small mistakes and glitches don't matter. My seventh HP is the only really "good" one, but all are usable and won't go to waste! Have fun with color and design while you hone your skills.

Helpful links:
Original HP pattern

Judy's Magic Cast-on

Knitting in the round with 2 circulars

Jogless stripes

Kitchener stitch

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

by Terry Grant ( at June 25, 2017 01:47 PM

June 24, 2017

Margaret Cooter

Water into wool, or vice versa

Chris Ofili's tapestry, commissioned for the Clothworkers Company and woven at Dovecote Studios in Edinburgh, was submitted as watercolour drawings. The qualities of the watercolour - especially when it represents water - is captured in wool, many colours of wool, thanks to the skills of the weavers, blending up to three nearly similar colours to get many variations. 

The tapestry will grace the guild's dining hall, but first it's being shown in the Sunley Room of the National Gallery (till 28 August), and makes an impressive display. 
The background, designed by Ofili for the installation, shows gods or perhaps merely demigods (one of his fascinations, both classical and contemporary) - they look like frescoes and are said to have been made with "a traditional fresco technique" (by the scene painters of the Royal Opera House).

The tapestry was woven in three panels on an 18-foot loom and took 6,500 hours of work over 2-1/2 years. The main lines of the drawing were traced onto acetate, then blown up to 877-times the size, and placed behind the loom for weavers to keep referring to. The main lines were transferred to the warp - each one inked all the way around each thread - and then the work started, finishing three years later. 

It's a collaboration - and both Ofili and the weavers speak of what's involved in the film that's shown in the exhibition. There are also some of the preliminary drawings - and there's a book.
The film explained the imagery - Ofili his been fascinated by a black italian footballer, Mario Balotelli - one of those demigods! - and he became the source of the unseen cocktail waiter who is filling the glass in the centre that the tipsy woman is holding, serenaded by the man with the guitar. The figures at the side are pulling back the curtains for us to see this scene, as if it was a stage; the caged birds are held by the figure on the right, and the figure on the left holds the  food that is given to them to make them sing. There are three kinds of water: the rock pool, the waterfall, the calm ocean behind. As well as the tropicality and luxuriance, there's a sense of threat - trouble in paradise....

When Ofili was doing the final art work, he says in the film, the turquoise in the jar held by the figure on the right ran a bit much, and he thought "oh no, I've ruined it" (but hadn't) - and the weavers, with their long slow process, captured that instant in the making of the work.

The tiny video clip on the gallery website ( talks about "the quality of human time embeded in the tapestry".

There's an excellent 10-minute video on the Art Channel - - with closeups of the weaving and lots of information about the background of the work - and without arty jargon.

by Margaret Cooter ( at June 24, 2017 05:37 PM

June 23, 2017

Natalya Aikens

Quilt National visit redux

It's nearly a month since I have returned from a whirlwind trip to Athens, Ohio for the opening weekend of Quilt National 2017. What a fun weekend it was! My friend Gail was my copilot as we let Waze guide us along the roads of NJ, PA, MD, WV and OH. The routes were all very scenic, but we had no time to stop for pictures, we had a destination to get to!

I have to say that as much as it was a thrill to see my art hanging in this prestigious exhibit, it was even more of a thrill to commune with all the artists who were there!

There's nothing better than hanging out with fellow creative souls. Sharing ideas, techniques, trials and tribulations and just basking in each others company. I was delighted to meet all the artists that I could, and wished every single one could have attended!

Here's the gallery view with my piece, Iron Spine 5XL hanging between work by Paula Kovarik and Kit Vincent, and then followed by Amy Meissner and Kerri Green

Here's moi talking about my work.... apparently I talk with my hands....
The powers that be took videos of the two minute talks that each artist gave about their work and when those videos become available I will gladly share where they can be seen. I always find public speaking rather nerve-wracking, but I was told that I spoke well and made sense. What more could I ask for?

Upon my return home, there was a lovely surprise in the mail - SDA magazine wrote a bit about the exhibit and used my art to illustrate it! So cool!
I'm still reliving bits and pieces of conversations that took place. So much to consider and enjoy remembering!

by Natalya Aikens ( at June 23, 2017 06:14 PM

Olga Norris

The Herring Girl

It was raining, my knees had had enough, and I was making my way to the car when a woman caught my eye.  Such a beauty - I had to have a closer look.
We were in Stornoway - our first visit and a fleeting one.  I had noticed a few sculptures around, but it was a sheer delight to encounter this one.  The plaque said that she is a Herring Girl, by Charles Engerbresten and Virginia Hutchison.   I just love the attention to exquisite detail, the basket, the knitwear, the fish.  The makers worked with local craftspeople to recreate them, and the sculpture was cast from life. 

(After we had left the town I discovered that there is another Herring Girl in another car park - something to look forward to seeing on our next visit.)  The herring industry was an important one for Scotland and the women played a vital part.  I had heard of them previously in connection with the North East coast of Scotland, but had never seen any commemoration as beautiful as this. 
In beginning research for the links here I found the ceramic work of Katie Scarlett Howard.
Her researches, and her work, with the impact which the sculpture in Stornoway made on me, have inspired me.

by Olga Norris ( at June 23, 2017 12:47 PM

Margaret Cooter

Art along the way

With time to squander yesterday (escaping the ever-ongoing renovations!) I took myself into town and sat in the park and stitched. Very pleasant in the intermittent sunshine, with the distant view of deckchairs, but after a while my long list of exhibitions to see started nagging at me - as did the daily 10,000 steps target - so the bag was repacked and the Art Stroll began.
Robert Perkins - Basil Bunting, Fragment, 1980(via)
In Mason's Yard, the target was an exhibition of poems-into-pictures - sometimes you get pictures in printed books of poems, but these prints were based on handwritten poems (many by Seamus Heaney). "Handwritten and handmade." Part 2 of this show is scheduled for the autumn; the printmaker is Robert Perkins.

Thiebaud painted people to0
Nearby, Wayne Thiebaud at White Cube. Upbeat paintings of ordinary objects, sometimes in pairs, and of scenes resembling aerial landscapes. What's striking is the lines of colour throughout - seems like every painting uses every colour of the rainbow. Makes for interesting looking - and it works because of the blank spaces that give the colours room. A glance at the website finds that the work spans 1962-2017. He started painting cakes, pastries, and pies in 1953.

Shadows in gallery windows along the way towards the National Gallery -

I meant to write about Chris Ofili's tapestry! Later...

by Margaret Cooter ( at June 23, 2017 12:26 PM

Neki Rivera

kyoto, always kyoto

journey of nishijin ~西陣織ができるまで~ from nishijinrensei on Vimeo.

where the action is.
have a good summer weekend.

neki desu
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by (neki desu) at June 23, 2017 10:09 AM

Terry Grant

Hot pad obsession

I have been making hot pads. Obsessively. I know, that's pretty crazy. But hear me out. It isn't that I want or need a large number of them, but they are nice to have, right? No, it's really about figuring something out. And this is an intriguing little puzzle.

It all started when our knitting group went away for a weekend at Hood Canal—an incredibly beautiful place in Washington state. We relaxed. We ate, we drank wine, we laughed, we knitted. Except for Joyce—she crocheted cleverly constructed hot pads that were a nice thick double layer. Like this. We loved them, but why, some of us wondered, couldn't they be knitted, instead of crocheted? I like knitting, and I like the way knitting looks—better than crochet.

You can find everything by Googling, and, sure enough, someone had interpreted the clever hot pad into knitting instructions, so I made one.

The way this was done was to knit a tube, in the round, cast-off and then sew each end together after making the fold that gives it its diagonal stitch pattern. So it has, as you can see, a diagonal seam through the center and another seam on the other side. It was OK, but wouldn't it be nice if you could make those seams disappear? As fate would have it, my friend, Kristin LaFlamme was knitting at our STASH meeting and showed how she had cast-on a sock in a way that created a smooth, seamless toe, using something called a Turkish cast-on. I tried it on my next hot pad and voila!—no visible seam on the top side!

But there was still a seam on the back side.

Back to Google and a YouTube video demonstrating the Kitchener stitch for invisibly joining two knitted edges. It is a complicated piece of work and my first attempt at Kitchener stitch was not great. Meanwhile I had run across Judy's Magic Cast-on, which was even better for my project than the Turkish cast-on.

Magic cast-on front:

Messy Kitchener stitch back:

Now I had a basic recipe and needed to perfect my technique.

A coordinating pair, front:

Same pair, back. That Kitchener stitch was proving to be my nemesis, but getting better with each one:

Now while I was concentrating on getting those seams smooth and invisible, don't think I didn't notice the ugly jogs in the stripes where they start and end. There are many YouTube videos that address how to create "jogless stripes" and each had a different approach. I tried many with limited success. I'm still working on that. The latest one looks promising.

So, I am making one hot pad after another,each one just a little better than the last. Do you see, it's not about hot pads? It's about mastery. This is how I learn. And after that first, boring red and beige hot pad, I decided it would be more fun if I had more colors to play with, so I went out and bought a bunch of balls of cotton yarn. It's cheap, comes in great colors and won't melt if you put a really hot pot on it. Because when all is said and done and I finally make a really good one, I will have hot pads for me and some friends and relations to use until they are faded and ragged and scorched. Then maybe I'll make some more. Maybe.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

by Terry Grant ( at June 23, 2017 01:22 AM

June 22, 2017

Margaret Cooter

Poetry Thursday - "I loved my friend" by Langston Hughes

I loved my friend
He went away from me.
There is nothing more to say.
The poem ends,
Soft as it began -
I loved my friend.

       - Langston Hughes, Poem or To F.S. (1926)

Seen on the wall at Victoria Miro, Wharf Road, as part of the Isaac Julien "I Dream a World": Looking for Langston exhibition (till 29 July).

by Margaret Cooter ( at June 22, 2017 11:20 AM

June 21, 2017

Natalya Aikens

Rauschenberg and I

Grand Black Tie Sperm Glut by Robert Rauschenberg

If you're in NYC or visiting soon, don't miss Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends exhibit at the MoMA. It's up till mid September thankfully!

As I wandered through this exhibition with my friend Nathalie, I felt more and more empowered. So odd. Usually I feel inspired by an exhibit. But this time I felt empowered! What the heck?

After some pondering I realized that it's because of the materials! Yes materials. Rauschenberg's and mine. I loved peering into each of his pieces on display and figuring out what he used where. I found cardboard and fabric of course. But also plastic! Plastic bags and balloons. And I must say that they still looked good after all these years, one was from 1961! I have heard that his work is a conservators nightmare, so I am being much more careful with mine. All my materials are archival, except for the plastic. But the plastic is indestructible as we all know....

And now that you see Rauschenberg's street signs above, I can make another connection. Perhaps an obnoxious one on my part.... but I've made some street sign art myself. Mine are a bit more delicate though... and a lot smaller! Stitched on plastic of course. And made completely by my hands.
Bump © Natalya Aikens
Other Side © Natalya Aikens

Crosswalk © Natalya Aikens

Dip © Natalya Aikens

No Turning Back © Natalya Aikens

One Way Or Another © Natalya Aikens
I've updated my website with new work including three of the pieces above. The other three were already there. There is still more new art to add, so check back every few days as I'll be adding a few on a regular schedule. And for everyones convenience, I'm adding PayPal buttons as I go.
Thank you!!

by Natalya Aikens ( at June 21, 2017 02:06 PM

Neki Rivera

happy solstice!

hanging in here; today 36ºc expected.this is northern spain not andalucia. trying to make it until tomorrow when temps will be back to normal ,a blessed 20º can people be negationists i'll never understand.

neki desu
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by (neki desu) at June 21, 2017 09:01 AM

Margaret Cooter

Midsummer garden


My garden is tiny, so it looks best in closeup and from different angles.

It's also been a bit neglected lately, but manages to bloom profusely. This year's stars were the self-seeded foxgloves, which are all but over now, and the pink cranesbill geranium is getting bigger and bigger. The rosemary needs yet more trimming, but the big box hedge has been clipped. The remaining bit of privet has become a skeleton - until the plants either side grow a bit, it's functioning as a climbing frame for the survivors of the rampant periwinkle that covered what had been trying to be a lawn, before we redid everything.

Looking towards the road
The tree peony in the pot, and the window boxes on the ledge, as well as several plants hidden in the undergrowth and the enthusiastic "friendly daisy", came from Tony's and need special attention. And in this heat wave everything needs watering ... no rain in sight.

Ah, the lavender ... it's a good year for the lavender too!

by Margaret Cooter ( at June 21, 2017 09:56 AM

June 20, 2017

Margaret Cooter

Drawing Tuesday - Science Museum

The suggested galleries were the Voyages exhibition or the revamped Mathematics gallery near it - both of which were advertised in "the tunnel" between the tube station and the museum -
I used my limited range of pencil crayons to try to replicate one of the ethereal photographs, of some sort of southeast Asian sampan ... but did the sail belong to it, or to another boat model that had been nearby? (all were models from the museum's collection in storage). And in the remaining time I investigated three other photos, including some tricky rigging lines -
For me, the session was about intense looking at 2D representations that gave you few solid clues - was the drawing meant to reconstruct the object, or was it an object in itself, at yet another remove?

Most if not all of the photos from the exhibition are in this interview with the artists.

We are a diverse group and it was edifying to see the different approaches.
Najlaa's renditions
 Jo added powerful white highlights

Janet K captured the heroic and mythic mood

Michelle's ship sails in a dream
From elsewhere...
 Carol's pumping machine, an experiment in monochrome

Sue's chemical model

 Janet B, too, was in another gallery

 Extracurricular activities
 After recent windstorms, Sue was fascinated by broken umbrellas left lying about

 Janet B had been in Glasgow the previous Tuesday, drawing at the Kelvingrove Museum
Michelle brought along her collection of samples from her Painting Techniques course

by Margaret Cooter ( at June 20, 2017 10:45 PM

Neki Rivera

who would have thought

that the heat wave would visit us? yesterday was very hot 31ºc. too hot for northern spain. people on the street looked congested, red and ready to drop of and tomorrow 34 º temp expected. then on thursday all back to normal;that's the carrot on the stick. the good news is that at night temps go down to around 19º, a privilege the med area does not enjoy.

 saying again too hot to weave, i dedicated my efforts to making the warp chains for the next project. i need 34 of them so the beginning was rather slow.
decided  that every 4th chain  would begin with a black silk yarn of the same grist as the linen which is a 32 singles. what i have in mind is some kind of  white on  white patterning that will give a brocade look. weft is going to be  same yarn as the warp.
need to check handweaversnet for a draft.

neki desu
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by (neki desu) at June 20, 2017 09:40 AM

Olga Norris

Caught my eye 2: Black and white, and colour - and more

Ian McKeever: Henge I (image from here)
Powerful as his work on paper is, Ian McKeever's pieces have sometimes been lost to me amongst the crush.  So now I make a point of seeking them out.  This is usually most rewarding, and especially so this year.  Henge I excited so many reactions and thoughts, not least because of all my thinking about prehistoric sites - most recently Callanish of course.  It is a lithographic print, but once I had seen the three pieces entitled ... And The Sky Dreamt It Was The Sea a train of thought about density was set off.
Ian McKeever: ... And the Sky Dreamt it was the Sea (images from here)
I am also a fan of Tony Bevan's expressive lines, and this year it was an architectural drawing which attracted my attention.
Tony Bevan: House of wood (image from here)
Michael Broad: The Waves (image from here)
Chang Hui Hu: Peony Pavilion (image from here)
Hen Coleman: The Boundary (image from here)
Michelle Avison: Something Blue (image from here)
Norma Silverton: Triptych with trees (image from here)
Johanna Love: Ohne Strahlen VIII (Without Light) (image from here)
I was delighted to see one of Paul Furneaux's woodblock print sculptures.  I just love the elegant combination of three dimensions and that watercolour finish.
Paul Furneaux: Orange: Blue: Grey (image from here)

Jane E. Allen: Shadowland (image from here)

There were many more individual pieces which I liked, but the last piece, on exiting the exhibition is a film installation by Isaac Julien - a beautiful, powerful, political work.  It is in a class of its own.  That really makes one think.

Western Union: Small Boats (image from here)

by Olga Norris ( at June 20, 2017 09:53 AM

June 19, 2017

Olga Norris

Caught my eye 1

Mathilde ter Heijne: Woman to Go (image from here)
It was an appropriately hot day when we went to this year's Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.  It is always interesting to see the packed mix of work by Academicians, Hon. Academicians, and other folks all together with the only label being a number. 

Jeannette Hayes: Queen of Sweden (image from here)
It is possible to look up the number in a published list of works which supplies name of work, name of artist, technique, and price - because this is a selling exhibition.  Indeed the proceeds go towards paying for the RA Schools, which are free to the students.  This alone makes the exhibition worthwhile in my opinion.
This year the hang is light and airy, with white walls, and each room with an inviting atmosphere.  Each room works as a whole, but we found that sometimes - perhaps even often - individual works seemed to lose their particular distinctiveness.  Some pieces more than held their own, of course.
Romuald Hazoume: Petrol Cargo (image from here)
Initially, years ago, I used to look at everything carefully.  Now, however, I scan the rooms and look closely only at those pieces which catch my eye.  I miss a lot, of course, but that is generally true in life, and it allows me much more time with the individual pieces which speak to me for whatever reason.
Hughie O'Donoghue: Departure (image from here)
I enjoy recognising artists whose work I admire and like - the pleasure is even greater when I am drawn to a work which I don't fully recognise but turns out to be by a favourite.  This adds to my appreciation. 
From time to time, seduced by a piece it is interesting to look up previously unknown artists only to find that I am not at all attracted to their other work.  That's thought-provoking - once I have got over the disappointment.
Alison Wilding: Simian Drawing VI, IV, and II (images from here)
And of course there's the delight of the obverse: finding a work or group of works which call to me across a room, only to find that they are from an artist to whose work I had not previously warmed.  This happened to me with the above pieces.  Alison Wilding is a sculptor, and the works which spoke to me are drawings - ink, collage, and pencil.  But she says on her RA page“I don’t think my work on paper has remotely anything to do with the kind of sculpture I make, and I think that’s why I do it - because it’s an opportunity to go down a different route,”
I admire her sculpture, but I do not have the language to understand it, and as yet it does not move me. But these works on paper intrigue me, and encourage a desire to play around myself.  Indeed it is about time I went back to playing with abstracts and with my pastels etc.  My attraction to Jeanette Hayes' work tells me that too.
Jock McFadyen: Harvey Reaches Down Behind the Bar (image from here)
Sometimes a piece of work catches me unawares, and stops me in my tracks because it feels as if it's telling me something about my own work.  I don't necessarily understand in particular what the work is trying to say to me, but the image remains burned into my brain.  This year that happened with Jock McFadyen's enigmatic painting shown just above.

by Olga Norris ( at June 19, 2017 01:28 PM

Margaret Cooter


Do you make pacts with yourself? Does that work - do you stick to it? And if not, what happens next?

At some point during the weekend at the CQ Summer School I sort of decided to start using my new computer for "everyday stuff" ... so, bright and early this morning, I started to try out this new resolution. 

It has Photoshop and Indesign, which I need for newsletter etc layout. But on the tiny screen of the Surface Pro, the writing on the menu bars is suitable only for ants! Spend half an hour trying to find if this can be fixed - first, figuring out what words to use to describe the situation - and discover that Adobe isn't going to fix it, ever ... then find this fix but it involves changing the registry, which I'm not brave enough to do, not before breakfast at any rate, despite the clear instructions and the enthusiastic testimonials from dozens of people. 

I pretend I'm an ant, and give Photoshop a try - what I want to do is change the huge dimensions (and large file size) of my photos to 600x480 pixels at 72dpi for using in blog posts. 

You need a mouse to do this, and my "cheap" one, says the Son, isn't Bluetooth ... so he brings his, and it says "it takes a minute to connect."

Son also tells me, somewhat impatiently, about why yesterday's photos (taken on phone) haven't appeared in Google Photos - I need to go to the phone to back them up. This takes quite some time; perhaps a hint not to take so many photos?

I lose patience with the phone, and with the new computer, and here I am back on the old one. Two screens, two keyboards, two mouses ...
... and a photo uploaded straight from the phone, unedited, to find out, via someone else's computer, if the file or the photo is huge. Though actually a bit of research shows this is no longer a problem - you get 15GB storage:

Blogger usually doesn't have any limit for the storage as the images the you upload will be stored in Google Photos of your Google account.
You can check your Google account's storage usage by using this link.

Son and I had a conversation that started "you don't need photoshop Mum, you can do all that with the photo software in the phone" - er, no: not correct keystoning, not doing Levels to get the contrast etc right. Editing is more than just cropping, especially editing photos that will be printed in newsletters etc.

But to a large extent he's right. I need to move with the times, and with the improved software.

So my next challenge is to find out how to use "the photo software on my phone" for ordinary purposes. One quick way to improve matters is to take a little more time when snapping the pix in the first place!

To end, the photo that's on the new screen - unedited -

and trying to get the light right (with a little cropping along the way) -
Nope, can't get the light ... it was much more sombre, despite the sunlight. These huge old conifers are in the beautiful, varied Licky Hill Country Park, near Longbridge (my Summer School experience included long walks before breakfast) - look hard on the left, there's a man with a dog to give you an idea of how big these trees are.  

As for that pact with myself, I'll give it another go later. Much as I love the familiary old computer, it gets so hot when it runs, can't be good. It needs a rest.

by Margaret Cooter ( at June 19, 2017 11:00 AM

Neki Rivera

woe transformed

and now is color block. the last meter of the yardage and i run out of weft yarn.looking in the dyed silks i found a big bobbin of kakishibu dyed yarn of the same grist. the good news is that it weaves with some iridescence,the bad news is that the mistakes are less forgiving. hoping there's not much undo.

neki desu
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by (neki desu) at June 19, 2017 08:00 AM

Carol Anne Clasper

I have just finished reading A Talent for Murder.  Andrew Wilson has caught the right atmosphere for this book.  It caught my imagination from the very beginning.  It covers the time Agatha Christie went missing.  Would she do what was asked of her, sinister though it was.  I loved the twist in the tale.  a must read for any Agatha Christie fan and anyone else just wanting a good intriguing read.

by Carol ( at June 19, 2017 08:25 AM

June 18, 2017

Margaret Cooter

Dad's day

He's sure to like one of these!

The bakery, Dunns in Crouch End, also does amazingly decorated cakes -
Is that a tasty version of Dad's sports shoe in the back?

by Margaret Cooter ( at June 18, 2017 10:17 AM

Olga Norris

Holiday reading

Before going anywhere on holiday I try to prepare myself as much as possible, not only to inform myself about what to look out for, but also to pre-'marinate' myself in the culture.  I had only a sketchy idea about the Outer Hebrides, so I did a lot of research on the internet, and read several books.
I started with Madeleine Bunting's Love of Country which placed me in the general area as it journeys through both Inner and Outer Hebrides, and covers some history.  Much better were the three novels by Peter May jointly known as The Lewis Trilogy which had been recommended by a friend. 
They and his book Hebrides with photographer David Wilson, and May's stand alone novel Coffin Road were an engaging way of immersing us in the atmosphere - and an accurate description of the weather we encountered.
I read the appropriate chapters in The Hebrides: An Aerial View of a Cultural Landscape which covered a lot about the flora and fauna as well as the geography and history.
A lovely little book on Callanish by Gerald Ponting is Callanish and Other Megalithic Sites in the Outer Hebrides.  It looks delightful, and perhaps a little dinky;  but it is serious, with the author actually having lived and worked for several years at the site. 
But the most informative, enjoyable, and impressive book of all was Adam Nicolson's journal account of the Shiant Islands: Sea Room
A quote on the back cover calls it both panoramic and personal, which really sums it up.  It is erudite and friendly, written as absorbingly as a whodunnit, but with so much more meat.  Although not about the parts of the Outer Hebrides that we were about to visit, the content of the book encompasses so much more than a restrictive location.
And the views from the west coast of the Outer Hebrides take in the Shiants and Skye as in the photo above by David Wilson, as are all the photos in this post.
The guide book we used, and found to be exactly what we needed on the spot was Charles Tait's Outer Hebrides Guide Book, 3rd edition.

by Olga Norris ( at June 18, 2017 08:35 AM

June 17, 2017

Olga Norris

Holiday art encounters - 2

This encounter was extraordinary: it was an experience which lifted my spirits in a way which has perhaps not occurred since way back in the mists of time.  We visited the arts centre in Lochmaddy, North Uist to have lunch on our tour of that island, and to see what art there was on exhibit.  Upstairs there was a room with quotes from a logbook written on the walls, the log books of Roberta Sinclair, naturalist and submariner. Stationed on Berneray after the second world war, she was a keen sea swimmer and regularly explored the waters around the island, gaining the nickname An Giomach (The Lobster).

and a mobile with small cable cars filled the upper volume of the space.  The exhibition's title is The Lobster and the Lacuna

The downstairs gallery contained a full size cable car, with projected waves on the walls around. the mid 1950s, the system expanded into the sound of Harris, when an unsuccessful attempt was made to create a new shipping hub on the east coast of the tiny island of Hermetray. Backed by investment from the then owners of Amhuinnsuidhe Castle, a small team built a prototype car which travelled from Berneray along the Grey Horse Channel to Hermetray, spending much of the route underwater to avoid crosswinds and interference with shipping.
Ms. Sinclair helped modify HCTC gondola No. 72 into an amphibious vehicle and was the only passenger on the prototype’s single voyage. Thinking both of a species of intertidal sea snail (Lacuna Vincta) and also of the silent unknowns of the world beneath the waves, she referred to her adapted cable car as The Lacuna.
So many exhibitions these days are based on or derived from history - events, people, social developments, etc. that this appeared to be another such - beautifully designed and engaging, ... amusing and largely quotidian quotes from the logbook, and the 50s wooden cable car there downstairs.

WHAT!?  A cable car transit across a stretch of sea constantly buffeted by strong winds, gales...?  And which also journeyed part of the route under water...?  A beautifully constructed cable car, but nonetheless a wooden cable car which resembled a cross between a shed and a beach hut-?

I must admit that my initial response was that it was all real, and that it had just been some bonkers idea from the folks in charge, but then doubts (which came much more rapidly to my husband) crept in.
What a glorious wheeze.  What a wondrous conceit so excellently, meticulously executed.  Brilliant story and accompanying detail and design.  The Hebridean Cable Transit Company  is - the artists - are Philippa C Thomas and Hector MacInnes.  The exhibition had been shown in Stornoway previously, and a blog noting its journey is here, whence came the images above (part of its title is Suspension and Disbelief).

Here are some snaps I took of the cable submersible:

Two other spoofs which I have encountered in my lifetime are similar: the spaghetti harvest film presented by the BBC (see it here), and the supplement on San Serriffe in the Guardian newspaper  (see it here).

by Olga Norris ( at June 17, 2017 11:54 AM

Holiday art encounters - 1

In my pre-holiday researches I had found a gallery near the house we were renting on Harris, and even nearer Rodel church.  It looked attractive in the online photos, and it proved to fulfil more than my expectations. 
The Mission House Studio belongs to a photographer and a ceramicist: Beka and Nickolai Globe.  Both of us were very taken with the work - as well as with the gallery, its layout, etc. ... all most seductive.  We both spent some time there, each talking with the artist where our interest lay: me with the potter because not only am I a nut about pots, but he was a graphic designer in a previous life.
Nickolai Globe's ceramics feel out of the earth around, and complement the drama of the landscape (photo above from here).
Beka Globe's photographs, all in black and white also beautifully capture that drama of the landscape around, yet also capture the life living day to day, and her photos of flowers also present the sculptural presence in both the rocks around and her husband's ceramics. (Photo below from here, where there is an interview with Beka Globe.)
It was a thoroughly inspiring visit; the sight of the ceramic studio alone made me at once want to get to work on something.

by Olga Norris ( at June 17, 2017 11:48 AM

Margaret Cooter

It only takes a minute

Coming back to the computer after a day of gallivanting in town, I found it had closed itself down, as it sometimes does, and had also changed the wallpaper on the desktop, as it should but sometimes doesn't. 

During the latest incident of "it's going so slow, I'd better back up immediately before it dies altogether" my son had helpfully got rid of all the things I don't need: "They slow it down and make it work harder, Mum, and when did you last use them?" All too true, but when do we ever make time for computer housekeeping?

But this is not about that - what sparked this little story is seeing the photo that happened to appear from the many possibilities in my files.

Lovely drawing, very striking - but as a photograph, it's dreadful. There are the reflections, which in situ you can't do much about ... what you can do something about is the "composition" - get that square thing squarely into the frame! It just takes a moment to tilt the camera or smartphone.

This is where "post-processing" is so useful. The editing in the camera or phone might not be able to straighten up that picture, but Photoshop and probably other editing programs can.

I've had to do this often, and use keystrokes. Control-A selects the entire photo - you see dotted lines around it. Control-T is "transform" and puts boxes (handles) at the corners and middles that you can drag out into the background till the lines of the picture frame are parallel with the edges of the photo. Click to accept, then use the Crop tool to get rid of the unwanted background.

Now that my screengrab of the photo was starting to look good, I wanted to get rid of the recycle-bin icon. With the Clone Stamp you select a "good" spot to use as a replacement, and overlay that onto the unwanted bit - it works like an eraser -

Getting your "wallpaper" from you photo files is rather frustrating. You have no clue about the picture - when or where was it taken, what does it show? Usually you do remember why you took it though - in this case, because I struggle with depicting rocks (among other things!) and wanted to look at how this artist (name lost, of course) did it.

Should have taken a moment to get the framing right ... saves a bit of work further down the line.

by Margaret Cooter ( at June 17, 2017 10:02 AM

June 16, 2017

Margaret Cooter


What we're having for dessert at the moment, on sunny summer evenings. Yum!

by Margaret Cooter ( at June 16, 2017 09:01 AM

Neki Rivera

that's what i need.

ideal dyeing set up in one of my favorite hoods in kyoto,where the action is :)

have a great weekend.enjoy the longer days.

neki desu
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by (neki desu) at June 16, 2017 08:00 AM

June 15, 2017

Margaret Cooter

Poetry Thursday - Thule, the period of cosmography

Thule, the period of cosmographie,
Doth vaunt of Hecla whose sulphureous fire
Doth melt the frozen clime and thaw the sky;
Trinacrian Etna’s flames ascend not higher.
These things seem wondrous, yet more wondrous I,
Whose heart with fear doth freeze, with love doth fry.

The Andalusian merchant, that returns
Laden with cochineal and china dishes
Reports in Spain how strangely Fogo burns
Amidst an ocean full of flying fishes.
These things seem wondrous, yet more wondrous I,
Whose heart with fear doth freeze, with love doth fry.

(Anonymous; found in Poems of Science, which has been on my shelves since 1984, when I met one of the authors)

The words sound so wonderful, even without knowing what they mean (Trinacrian Etna??). Attempting to finally "understand" this poem, which I've sort of known about since taking an interest in madrigals back in the balmy 1970s, I found this succinct explanation on the Paris Review site:

This anonymous love lyric about the polar regions was set to a madrigal by the composer Thomas Weelkes in 1600. Four hundred years ago, poets had the luxury of looking at the horizon and marveling at what might lie beyond it. We’ve since lost that hopeful curiosity about the external world. The natural wonder of volcanic eruption is now classified as a natural disaster, and the once romantic Andalusian merchant is now seen as a capitalist pig. Having run out of physical space, exploration has turned inward. Thule is now the period of an interior cosmography. We go there not as heroes, but as a collection of anonymous users. 
The point of the poem—and I think it endures—is that the commonplace grime and dirt of our own feelings is still more powerful and exciting than the Thule of either cosmography.
But more useful was Ruth Padel's expose of the poem (here), which looks at its musical setting and explains some of the wording - why "period", for example ... it came to mean "farthest limit", and Thule came to mean anywhere in the frozen north.

In 1597 Hecla, a volcano in Iceland, erupted for more than six months. Fogo is another volcano, in the Cape Verde islands, off Senegal ... or might it be Tierra del Fuego?

Padel writes:
What this madrigal breathed was a right to the elsewhere, claimed by a culture where everyone was grabbing at places and artefacts that had been written about but not seen. An over-the-rainbow period (“period” in the temporal sense), of making the foreign your own imaginatively and commercially; when blue dishes and scarlet dye were suddenly chromatic in the visual sense; when fabulousness did not stay on the page, or far-off in Thule, but came alive in English words and music.
Many versions of the madrigal are on youtube; try this one, it has a comparatively good sound quality ... but even so the words are difficult to make out!

by Margaret Cooter ( at June 15, 2017 11:59 PM

Olga Norris

Stones after the storm

It had been raining all day, but by the time we approached the Callanish car park we could not see.  The rain was pouring down past the wipers as if they were not there.  We inched towards a space and stopped.  And waited: 'if you don't like the weather, just wait ten minutes'. 
Looking back, I can't remember how many minutes we sat there, glum, wondering whether to cut our losses and return another day - when, the rain stopped and the sun shone.  Just like that!  Of course the wind was still blowing, but we had got used to that by now.  And the sun soon left, but it remained dry.
Unlike Stonehenge, the Callanish stones are open to the public, and I find it remarkable that they are still standing.  But the stones are beautiful.
And are in a beautiful setting - even when the weather is less than perfect.
I was fascinated by the rock itself, its laminations - the pieces are so slim, how has it not all split apart after all these years? (and all that wind!?) - the colours, and the growths.
Below is a picture of a postcard I bought at the visitor centre made of a photograph of Callanish from the air by Colin Baxter.

by Olga Norris ( at June 15, 2017 09:35 AM

June 14, 2017

Margaret Cooter

Walking the Capital Ring - section 1

We started at Woolwich Foot Tunnel and made our way to Falconwood to get the train back home. (This is South London ... whereas North London is "home".) The 78-mile route has been divided into 15 section. This one has some uphill bits, and some panoramic views. And lots of lovely woods. And a castle. But it's short on the lunch and coffee stops - and crossing the main roads is - even with traffic lights, but without pedestrian indicators - not for the faint of heart or slow of foot!

Woolwich is downriver, and there's a little ferry 

Old signs

Into the parks - to find meadow flowers

And a red-bodied dragonfly
 Lots of information boards, in all the parks -

 Lunch on a bench in the shade ... so good to sit down! -
Finally we come to Severndroog Castle, one of London's hidden treasures -

At last, coffee and cake!!

 Built in 1748, it's a monument by a loyal wife to her husband, who fought and/or quelled piracy on the Malabar Coast. Apparently the view from the roof is great, but it was closed today.

From the path you got some idea of the vista -
 And in the woods you might find ... what ... art? mementos? wierdnesses? ... on the trees -
 and trees with interesting growth habits -
 "It never rains but it pours" - a short walk to another cafe ...
After which, through yet more lovely woods to the station and the end of Section 1.

by Margaret Cooter ( at June 14, 2017 10:33 PM

Olga Norris

The second week

On our last day before taking the ferry to Harris the sun shone, and we enjoyed a couple of days' relaxation before exploring Harris and Lewis.  There were only two definite places I wanted to see: Rodel church and Callanish stones.  We had a great week, mostly on Harris with one day in Lewis, visiting Callanish with a brief stop in Stornoway.
I am fascinated by symbols and symbolic art, which means that I'm attracted to work found in churches.  St Clement's church in Rodel is rich with wondrous sculptures, especially around the grave of Alasdair Crotach, chief of the clan MacLeod - decoration which he ordered for himself.  My camera was inadequate, but there are photos here - two are below.
I was also fascinated by the stone wall marking the road boundary of the graveyard.  There is a deliberate pattern in it
but I also found the placement of stones pleasing, and loved the layer of growth on top.
I shall write about Callanish in the next post.

by Olga Norris ( at June 14, 2017 03:13 PM

Neki Rivera

im not alone

untangling a badly tangled silk skein.all the ties used didn't help at all.however as misery loves company i casually discovered in one of the machine knitting groups a group of ladies who love to untangle skeins.the reasons they give for their love echoed in me.they go a bit further in their pleasure and volunteer to do it for others.for free. you only have to pay the postage. i think all that good karma they're producing helps in keeping the world together without exploding.

neki desu
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by (neki desu) at June 14, 2017 09:33 AM

June 13, 2017

Margaret Cooter

Drawing Tuesday - Wellcome Collection

Last Tuesday was a very rainy morning so I sat in the cafe for a while to dry off, and got out the pieces of fresh chalk I'd collected from the cliffs at Saltdean during my cat-sitting weekend. While wrapping them in tissue paper  so they wouldn't make a mess in people's bags, I started drawing some of them from various angles, using an indigo inktense pencil -
 and experimenting with using the chalk to smudge (and intensify) the colour ... which led to trying other types of pencil.
 Eventually I went into the Electricity exhibition and mussed about with this'n'that -
The film by Bill Morrison was great - an animation of the physical basis of electric current, and its distribution. See scenes from it here. "In a commissioned film, American artist and filmmaker Bill Morrison used material from the Electricity Council archive at MSI (the Museum of Science and Industry) in Manchester to create a visual journey that explores the production and distribution of electricity and its profound impact on our daily lives. "

Michelle had based one of her drawings on the film - and the other, the sprite, came from a vintage label -
 Jo was intrigued by this early electric motor, the Barlow's wheel (1822; read how it works here) -
 Mags found Edison's first lightbulb -
 Janet K put a lot of nails into this Nkisi figure -
The "round" fish on Najlaa's ancient plate is electric -
 Carol limited herself to using one colour -
 Judith was upstairs drawing the marvellous staircase -
 ... and here it is on its lower level (with an Antony Gormley sculpture nearby)
 Sue found a striking head -
 Extracurricular activities
Janet K has been drawing the nasturtiums on her patio

Carol has been examining and capturing irises

Great minds think alike...
And again, a visual coincidence 
... which gave us another chance to see Mags' "electric" sketchbook

by Margaret Cooter ( at June 13, 2017 11:57 PM

Neki Rivera


chuck close:  inspiration is for amateurs.the rest of us get up and go to work.warp on the second turn of the cloth beam. guess it will be finished this week. proud of myself for having been able to salvage that yarn,lots of extra work,but satisfying.

starting a linen warp. it's going to have a black thread every 4 sections= 12 cms.have to decide whether that thread is going to be linen or silk.

linen top. so good for gauge swatch, could hardly breath in the top. ripped off and starting again.

neki desu
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by (neki desu) at June 13, 2017 08:00 AM

Rayna Gillman

I've moved my blog

Follow me over to , subscribe to get the updated posts, and please leave me a comment (as a test and to let me know you got this message).

See you over there!!

by (Rayna) at June 13, 2017 03:38 AM