Tuesday 5 May 2009

Picture from an Exhibition

Mermaid Kite from my latest exhibition


More soon...

Thursday 23 April 2009

More duck stuff

Here she is, and here her eggs, and as fierce an eye as I've ever seen...

Cycled past a small pond this evening and was amazed by the number and energy of the ducklings. All brown except one yellow one, and a sideways avalanche of feet and cheeping and water...

Ah, spring is here...

Sunday 19 April 2009

Catching up and settling down...

...to some work at last.. Not going to show them here yet, as they are for my next exhibition, but I am mightily relieved to have broken the back of the Creativity Monster...

Meanwhile:- a duck has nested in the next-yard but one - she has made a perfect nest from old string and feathers and is happily sitting on 6 beautiful blue eggs. You can just see the string in the picture. And the spring light is illuminating my carpets really nicely..

Thursday 2 April 2009

Rubber Postcards

If I had been asked if this was a good idea, I suspect I would have laughed..
Postcards class on Saturday was much enjoyed by all. Cards by Tina, using bicycle tyre, inner tube rubber, oddments of chain, and spoke nipples. Now that's going to do funny things for the hit rate...

Tuesday 24 March 2009

Ada Lovelace Day

and I have pledged to blog about women and technology... So I am going to talk about sewing machines. Because that's what I know, and because I have a sneaking suspicion that, had I been born with different plumbing, I would have been an engineer by trade, not a sewist.

Picture here was taken in 2003, at a meeting of Old-Sewing-Machine Fanatics at my workshop. I have just worked out how to thread and adjust an 1880s machine of great beauty and charm, still working and doing it's bit after 12o-odd years.

When the sewing machine came into general use, in the 1860s and 1870s, it changed the world. Before this the average household would have had very few new clothes; what was made was made by hand and passed down and repaired until nothing was left. After the advent of the domestic sewing machine, came Fashion, Consumerism, and relative plenty. Household linenes could be made at speed. Clothes did not have to have several owners.

As the machines were too expensive for most people to afford to buy one outright, there was a system of "hire purchase" - not new but uncommon till that time. From this we directly get the Car Culture, because that too needs a time-delayed system of payments for ordinary people to be able to play. And sewing machines were pretty much mass-produced, on assembly lines, in factories, with a workforce dedicated to just that one job. Compare this with bicycles - also offered as a great liberator of women and the working classes, but mostly made in small workshops not much different from the village blacksmith's smoky hovel.

Then there is fabric. If you have a small market, hand-woven and hand-dyed will suffice. If the demand increases 100 or 1000-fold, than you must make factories to make fabrics, printing must improve, dyes will poison the river, and another workforce arrives. My grandmother was a mill hand in Lancashire, England at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century. She was well-paid, independent, and was regarded as having "let herself down" by marrying and giving it up. She ran huge, dangerous, dirty machines on a shift system, and, at 13, was a supervisor (doffer) over a whole floor of other (mostly female) workers.
Thread must be much better quality, so spinning mills must be made which can produce this. Needles and thread can be quite crude for hand sewing, but machines require precision...
And the Computer was, of course, preceded by the Loom... The first Punch Card systems were for weaving cloth, not crunching numbers..

My conclusion? Without the Sewing Machine Revolution, we would have so much less of out modern world. Maybe good, maybe bad, some of each perhaps, but different..

And me? I love machines. I like screwdrivers, oil, precision; things which work as they should. I like my car, love my bicycle, would not live without my sewing machines...

Thursday 26 February 2009

Voodoo people...

..awaiting their faces...
My armchair gets more like a nest every day. These little people are awaiting their features, before being packed in a box and winging their way to Raven...

Wednesday 25 February 2009

Spirals and Trees

Teaching Spiral Thing yesterday. A good class, if a little overlong for some reason. Herewith Lin with her almost-finished creation..

One student (Sue) brought the Trees piece she had done in a previous class, along with the two she was inspired to make once she got home.. It's so nice when a student takes an idea and runs with it...

Saturday 21 February 2009

Cats On Mats

What a rabble...

Thursday 12 February 2009

Making Waves

..which is the theme and title for my next exhibition. John has been making these nice automata (see image) and these are called "Making Waves" - they come in several sorts (different boats)...
So I thought it would be nice to step away a little from the Tree thing and make some Sea Things...

Quilt behind the boat is a detail from "Across The Loch" which I made last year during an Embellished Landscape class I was teaching in Essex..

May 2nd- 10th 2009,
11 till 5 every day
4, The Raveningham Centre
Beccles Road
Norfolk NR14 6NU
01508 548137

Wednesday 11 February 2009

Truth and Beauty...

The most common error made in matters of appearance is the belief that one should disdain the superficial and let the true beauty of one's soul shine through. If there are places on your body where this is a possibility, you are not attractive - you are leaking.
Charles Lamb, 1775 - 1834

Image: "Big Fence"
Mixed media collage, acrylic paint, fabric, net. dye, stitch
4 by 6 inches. Sold...

Sunday 1 February 2009


..at the British Museum

I have been fascinated by these since I read Thor Heyerdahl as a child.. I wonder what they did with his Hat...

photo: J. Stormes

Tuesday 27 January 2009

Why Blog?

A question that occurs to all of us out here on the wibbly wobbly web from time to time. Am I talking to myself? Probably. Is this wrong? Maybe not. Is it therapeutic? Probably not as much as a real conversation, a night off, or a small treat*, but perhaps there's something in that. Showing Off? Almost certainly....

I have spent many years assuming that Writing (with the Capital Letter) was Too Much to add to all the other creative stuff I do; but I do a lot of writing (small w) in my day-to-day art/making practice, and it has almost all to be quite precise, concise and difficult, - catalogues, instructions, descriptions. To say nothing of Artist's Statements, Titles, and Exhibition Listings. (Which is what I am putting off at the moment.) And the accounts. The latter definitely non-fiction, but still an exercise in serious creativity...

There is an element of Wanting To Do This One day, too, which is perhaps a folly. Writers write. Makers make. Artists art..

And then there's invoices. I hate writing invoices. Quite like getting the cheques in, though...

Made kites today. Haven't felt like a kite maker for a while. Seems a shame to leave all those years of expertise behind, so I'll make them again... And I wound hand-dyed thread from the skeins (wherein they were dyed) into the balls, that will eventually become the little skeins that I sell.. Then I have to make a webpage to show them to the world, so I photograph (see above) skeins and packets, pull up the BBEdit and whaddya know... Write!

I feel sometimes that it would be nice to have a Manager, to do all this stuff for me, but then some of the Admin is fun.

*please note, I don't do chocolate or sweets, but I am very partial to fabric...

Friday 23 January 2009

Too tired to post...

Detail from the central screen-printed part of "Shades of the Forest". I have been teaching screen-print all day and I'm exhausted... TV and fire for me, and early to bed...

Tuesday 20 January 2009

Transformation - a good time of year for it..

Sometimes I make work for the "wrong" reasons - I think this piece was one such. I was asked to submit a piece for a Contemporary Quilt Group exhibit at the FOQ in 2005, theme to be "Primary Colours"

Red, Yellow, Blue? Right? Apparently not.
Whole experience was moderately unpleasant; directions hard to follow; not happy with the quilt; was shown in a tiny booth with lots of unlabelled quilts and no space to look at them: not my idea of a good time.
And the quilt had to be mounted on a frame, which to my mind makes it both more and rather less than a quilt. It later went to the Loch Lomond Show (where the display was much better, but still not what I want to see for my work)

So it went in the drawer, and I ignored it steadfastly for a bit. Then this New Year's big turn-out unearthed it again, so I took a good long look, and scrapped it....

The background was acrylic painted, repainted, brushed with gold acrylic from a sponge brush, and cut, edged with cord, manipulated, and made into the first bowl above. The second bowl is made from the front piece and also manipulated, but not painted. Original work below. I'm much more pleased with these...

Original piece was 12 inches square...

Monday 19 January 2009


A jolly detail from one of the bits and pieces I have been endeavouring to put onto my Sewing Machines website...
I have been collecting all manner of sewing and knitting and weaving paraphanalia for years - but have decided that the chances of disaster whenever I open a cupboard make it absolutely essential to pass some of these nice things along..
Carnelle Rug Making tool, with box, £15

Friday 16 January 2009

Postcard Workshop

At the workshop this afternoon. Seven happy postcardists made these, and a good time was had by all...
Cards by Jo, Jo, Julia, Yvonne, Sheila, Enid, and Sue...

Monday 12 January 2009

Early Quilt...

Early Quilt...not finished in the photo (I added buttons) This one hangs in my bedroom and I'm still fond of it...

Saturday 10 January 2009

Book workshop

..at Bergh Apton Village Hall, very near here. Quite the frostiest day yet, but a good time had by all. Some of the books here - all with banana paper covers, hand-stitched, and acrylic painted. Bottom one has pages made with envelopes, to be a travel journal..

Thursday 8 January 2009

Textile Art Group Suffolk..

...of which I am a member, and webmistress..
..is holding it's 16th annual exhibition in July at the Pond Gallery, Snape Maltings

in Suffolk.

Image is from a piece by Jane Haylock

Tuesday 6 January 2009

More Life Drawing

Another Life Drawing. This time with felt-tip pen on sugar paper, as far as possible as a gestural drawing, without too much looking at the paper... Probably a 5-minute drawing (which means I may have done two or three from this pose..)

Big cleanup is almost done, and I am heartily sick of the whole process. Workshop looks great, though, I may try to take some pictures before it gets used again...

Monday 5 January 2009


An old image; I found this the other day and had forgotten how effective this particular small exhibition was at the time...

Vampyre kite, small bird flook, and a small delta...

Having lost a lot of my kite trade (damn those industrious Chinese) in recent years, I seem to have started the New Year with a revival of interest - an order yesterday and another today, and some interest in banners...

Interesting. Meanwhile I am almost at the end of the big clean-up, just the pile of UFOs to sort and the machines to oil and service...

Sunday 4 January 2009

Pillow Dolls

I have been taken with the notion of dolls again. Two here, more later

Saturday 3 January 2009

Something completely different..

Quilt is called "Not Quite Red And White", and has around 400 different red fabrics in it. Made for the Festival of Quilts (Traditional Large category) in 2006 when I entered every category and size that I qualified for - 13 in total plus 2 quilts on exhibitor stands...
As the rules have now changed, I may forever have the record for the most quilts shown..
Tiny Jones sewing machine beneath it was from my aunt and uncle, now sadly no longer in this world, and the machine has moved on too...

Thursday 1 January 2009

New Year stuffing

Hello again. Sorry for the long hiatus, caused by life being more exciting than blogging, for a change....

Anyhow, back again, still in the middle of the grand clearup for the New Year, and about to start making again... Phew

And here's the new Teaching List for the first quarter - image for the Spiral Thing class...

Friday 16th January 1 till 5 pm
Fabric Postcards £17-50
Make a little work of art (or two) and send them winging on their way.
Fun, easy, and addictive...

Friday 23rd January 11 till 5
Screen Print for Beginners £35
Learn to prepare and use a Screen to Stencil and make Screen Monoprints Price includes inks and use of equipment, bring your own fabric/paper. 5 students only; if this class is full I will schedule another...

Saturday 24th January Play With Dyes Day £30
Block and transfer print, Procion dyes, discharge, etc. etc. Not for complete beginners, please.
Book both the above together, deduct £5

Friday 30th January 11 till 4
Sheer Delight £28
Make a small panel with transparent, translucent and filmy fabrics including voiles, organdy, Lutradur and scrim. Use transfer printing, spray-painting, and hot-cutting to make a small piece to hang in the light.. . Materials provided

Friday 6th February 11 till 4
H is for Heat £35
A class with Alison Couchman, who will be teaching here several times this year. Alison is a skilled and entertaining teacher and has a very good grasp of her subjects.
These are the first installments of an A to Z of Textiles.

The ways that different materials react to heat is endlessly fascinating and varied. We will use hot air guns and soldering irons to fuse, texture and distress a range of materials. Experiment with different materials, layering, adding colour and using heat to change them in exciting ways. The heated materials can be used to make jewellery, panels for applique, used on vessels or a wide range of other applications.

Saturday 14th February
I will be teaching a Seminole Tote Bag at Quilters Haven. £30 Please book directly on 01728 746275 or www.quilters-haven.co.uk

Wednesday 18th February
I will be teaching Textures Of Summer at Quilters Haven. £30
Please book directly on 01728 746275 or www.quilters-haven.co.uk< href="http://www.helenhowestextiles.co.uk/class/spiralthingclass.html">Spiral Thing £30
Three-dimensional hanging spiral in defiance of gravity... Easy sewing for a complex result. Price includes fibreglass for the edge of the spiral, and swivels etc..

Thursday 12th to Sunday 15th March
I will be at Chilford with the Oakshott stand..

Saturday 21st March
International Quilt Day at Haddiscoe Village Hall £7 including a hot lunch.
Sewing stuff, trader, quiz, raffles, competitions, show-and-tell, fun for all.

Wednesday 25th March £35
F is for Fibres A class with Alison Couchman
Spend the day exploring different kinds of fibres including making silk paper, denim fibres, cotton and linen fibres and Angelina heat-bondable fibres for a bit of sparkle. We will investigate ways to add texture and inclusions such as threads and sequins. A great mixture of materials and techniques which can be used to make lots of different surfaces and which have many different uses.

Friday 27th March 11 till 5
Textures Of Summer £25
Make 5 different squares to hang together as a delightful sampler banner of techniques. Easy hand and machine sewing and embellishments...

To book any of the above, please ring Helen on 01508 548137, or click here to email me

Flat Doll

Someone asked me if I made dolls, and I said "yes" without thinking that it had been a long time. I have made a few of these flat ones, and have a yen to do more...