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Handmade Mixed Media Tree ‘Specimen’ Book

Handmade Mixed Media Tree ‘Specimen’ Book

I have been continuing to slowly add bits and pieces to my tree ‘specimen’ book. You can see most of the ‘blank’ pages of the book in this post and some pages that have had ‘specimens’ added to them here.

This is definitely a ‘slow’ project that I am working on very intermittently. It’s been fun to pick it up again and just add a few things here and there without pressure to finish it or make it look perfect.

Mixed media book, front page painted watercolor background, machine stitched moss glued to background and definition of mossy torn paper glued down.

I added some more machine stitched moss to the first page and a definition of mossy.

Mixed media book open to left page painted cracked plaster on the left and torn sketchbook page with 'pine needles' on the right.

On this page spread on the left, I had one of my plaster coated pages but it had cracked significantly. I need to get some gesso to paint over these pages but since I haven’t ordered it yet, I decided to try something different. I layered different colors of paint on the cracked surface. You can click on the photo to enlarge it. The page on the right is a torn piece from one of my small sketchbooks. It kind of reminds me of pine needles. It was originally screen printed and I added colored pencil to enhance the look of the pine needles. Torn and messy is the point of this book so I ripped the sketchbook page and glued it down to a lightly painted background page. You can see the dark edges of the next page which is next up.

Mixed media book open to a page spread with an eco print of leaves and buds on the right hand side.

The page on the right is an eco print on paper that my friend Paula created. She has a big stash of these papers and kindly let me use a few.

Mixed media book open to page spread with blank plaster coated page on the right and back of eco print with cut out frame of painted paper and tea bag machine stitched skeleton leaf on the left.

This is the back side of the eco print above. I cut a window out of the painted background so you could see more of the backside of the eco print. I added a machine stitched tea bag leaf as well. The right side is another plaster coated canvas pages that needs to be gessoed and then drawn or painted on.

Mixed media book open to page spread with blank plaster coated page on the left and green painted paper background and stenciled/painted brown pine cone on the right.

This pine cone on the right was stenciled ages ago. I pushed some kind of thicker medium through the stencil to give a relief effect. It didn’t work all that well and got a bunch of bubbles in it. I painted it green at some point but didn’t like that either. I got it out of my paper stash and decided I needed to finish it. I added walnut ink, sepia marker and matte medium to get it to a point that I was satisfied with it looking like a pine cone. It also needed more strategic cutting out than I had done previously. I glued it down to the painted background letting a little bit of the pine cone stick out over the edge of the page. This is a testament to never giving up on a piece of artwork!

Mixed media book open to page spread with orange feathers woven into a gridded hand made paper on the left and an eco print glued to a dictionary page on the right.

Next to the feathers that I had shown you in my last post, I glued another one of Paula’s eco prints down on to the dictionary page. I can’t decide if this page needs something else but I will just leave it for now. I do want to leave more simplified areas where the eye can rest.

Mixed media book open to page spread, blank plaster coated page on the left and painted skeleton leaf on the right.

This one on the right is the last page that I worked on this time. It was originally a deconstructed screen print on paper all in the brighter green. When I was looking through the book, this page caught my eye as I saw a leaf in the middle of the page. I used Inktense pencils and then water on a brush to make the darker leaf appear more strongly on the page. I hope you can tell I am having fun with this. It is a very freeing process not worrying about the final outcome.


Handmade Book Continued

Handmade Book Continued

About a month ago, I showed you my handmade book that I created at our annual art retreat. I have since then been slowly adding “stuff” to the book. The theme is the forest and I am having fun finding things to add to the book.

Handmade book open to page spread with fabric photo of trees in morning light stitched to page and small torn piece of paper below photo with definition of woodland.

I had this photo of morning light on trees printed on fabric for my class homework but hadn’t used it. I decided to hand stitch it in place on this hand dyed page. I then glued a piece of handmade paper to the page spread and added a definition of woodlands scrap of paper that Paula gave me. She had a bunch of definitions printed out on “old paper” and she kindly gave me the ones relating to the forest. As you can probably tell, I am not starting on page one and working through the book. I am adding things randomly through the book depending on what the page looks like and what I think works best. This way, I’m not stressing about each page being wonderful. I just find something that I like and add it in. So these pages may have more things added as I go along or not.

Handmade book open to inside cover and first page. Specimen label on cover and small piece of handstitched "moss" on first page.

Paula also had some “old” labels and I used the Specimen Book label on the inside cover. And then I took a small piece of machine stitched “moss” that I had made for my moss covered branch and glued it on to the first page.

Handmade book open to page spread with a charcoal sketch of an aspen tree on plaster coated page.

The pages that have been covered with a mixture of plaster and gesso will all end up with some type of drawing or sketch. This Aspen tree sketch was done with a charcoal pencil and then I sprayed the page with a fixative so hopefully the charcoal won’t smear.

Handmade book open to page spread with lattice type handmade paper and feathers woven into paper.

I collect a lot of “stuff” when I walk through the woods around my house. I have a lot of turkey feathers but they were a bit too big so I used these smaller orange veined feathers to weave into the page of hand made paper. I’m not sure what bird these are from but they are much more rare to find on the ground than the turkey feathers.

Handmade book open to page spread with a torn edged photo of chickadee artwork pasted on dictionary page.


I wanted to try a photo transfer on some pages. I thought this would work on the regular paper of the old dictionary page. So I tried to transfer a photo of this painting that I did of a chickadee. The transfer did not work out so I ended up printing the chickadee on to regular copy paper, tearing it out and gluing it on to the page.

Handmade book open to page spread with transfer of a photo of a sketch of an Oregon grape leaf.

Here’s another attempt at a photo transfer on to a watercolor paper page. It worked slightly better but came out very lightly. I used a black marker to outline the Oregon grape leaf but decided to just leave the lighter colors as they were from the transfer. I am not trying for “perfection” in this book. It’s about collecting “stuff” about the forest in one book. The rocks on the page in the photo above are just there to hold the page in place so I could take a photo. But perhaps I need a sketch of the rocks added in? I’ll keep that in mind for another page idea.

I’m enjoying this process of working randomly in the book. It’s a storage vessel for all my forest “finds”.

Handmade Book

Handmade Book

I told you in my last post that I had created a handmade book from deconstructed screen printed fabric and paper at our retreat. We followed this free tutorial by Jeanne Oliver. She has lots of free content on her site and some wonderful online classes. This is the book I created.

Here’s the book from the front. I used hemp canvas fabric that I had screen printed. The cover was constructed from the hemp canvas, book board and deconstructed screen printed paper.


The book was bound with pamphlet stitch and copper wire. I have created many books with pamphlet stitch but had never used wire. It was a bit tricky but I like the result, plus it’s very sturdy.

Here are the inside front cover (L) and inside back cover (R). I really love the organic feel of the screen printing. I made three signatures and used plaster on canvas pages plus additional pages of various papers and a bit of fabric. The main pages were created with canvas, plaster and gesso.

I didn’t take photos of all the page spreads but wanted to show a range of what was included in the book. The brown paper on the left is a “faux rice paper” that I made with tissue paper, walnut ink and matte medium. The photo on the right shows the inside of the copper wire binding.

These next photos shows a variety of papers that I used in addition to the plaster and canvas pages. Some were painted, some eco printed and I used some specialty rice papers as well.

Here are a few more page spreads. Besides paper, I also added in some hand dyed canvas as well. The book is fun in itself and could probably be left as is. But I want to make it into a book about the forest with sketches, additional ephemera related to trees and whatever else reminds me of the forest. So I will be working on this slowly and adding bits and pieces to it over time.

These are a few of the types of things that I might add. Paula kindly gave me the pieces with definitions and the labels. She has loads of ephemera and is very generous. Thanks Paula! You could easily make this type of book with felt as the cover fabric. I would love to see your results if you give it a try. You can submit photos of your work here and we will post them.

I am running behind so…..

I am running behind so…..

I declare throwback Tuesday. I seem to have run out of time this week so I thought you might like to see this post from 2017. Jan posted some pictures in our guild group and it reminded me and I thought it was worth another look. I hope it and the links to the other 2 posts about it will give you lots of inspiration for your own work.



This is the 3rd and final set of pictures from this exhibit. the first is here: and the second here: Again I apologize for some of the odd angles as it was very crowded with people enjoying the exhibit. In the last picture, you may find it hard to see but there is a very long weaving draped across the ceiling.

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Needle Books Next Steps

Needle Books Next Steps

Continuing on from my last post about making felt for needle books, Felt for Needle Books  I started sewing them together. Well,  first I had to iron them all which always takes much longer than you think it will. Everyone forgets to mention this step or they just say iron your pieces like it’s nothing at all. There are no pictures of ironing, as fascinating as that might have been, I didn’t take any pictures.

I also only took one picture when I was sewing them together. There was much swearing, and unpicking that you didn’t need to see.

After sewing them together I had to think about how to decorate them. I went online and looked for line drawings.  You can find them in any theme you like. I looked for sewing. I also used some I had saved from other projects. I traced them onto a nonwoven dissolvable stabilizer.  This is great stuff and it doesn’t take much to dissolve it. You can’t use a marker for tracing, it dissolves the stabilizer. I used a thick pencil to trace my designs.

On to the stitching. The first one is a snail. I picked a variegated embroidery floss. I used all 6 threads because I wanted a heavy line.

You will notice that in the first of the snail pictures the book is sewn together but in the other 2 pictures, it is pinned together. After stitching the snail I realized I stitched it so the inside is upside down and so I have unpicked the thread holding it all together and will sew the inside in the right way.

This one I really didn’t know how to embellish, I have another one almost the same. I decided on a backstitched chain stitch using 2 similar colours. I didn’t need the dissolvable stabilizer for this one. It’s a bit wonky, but there you go.

I also did the smallest book.

Closed the little book is only 2.25  inches (5.7cm) square. That is big enough to hold some needles and a thread saver. This book only has one double, needle page. All the others have two, and they all have 2 pockets. I have one more smallish one and the rest are all bigger. The biggest ones are 4.5 inches (11.3 cm) square so big enough for a small pair of scissors. After I get all of the embroidered I will have to add some buttons and ties or elastics to them. Elastics can look messy if you don’t have layers to hide the ends between. How do you deal with cut ends when adding them to a project?

This is what’s new on the farm this week. These are baby chicks.

And these are baby turkeys. There is not much difference between them as day olds. But only a few days on and the turkeys have grown necks.

Five of them got stepped on by there friends and had isolated themselves away from the heat so they had to come inside and live in a box with a heat lamp, in my sewing room for a few days.

Here they are all better, in a bucket for their trip back to the group. this is the safest way for them to traves without getting hurt or too scared.  You can see how they have grown in just a few days. Not sure why the look so grubby in the picture because they weren’t, just the light I guess.




Felt for Needle Books

Felt for Needle Books

Not too long ago I saw some nice needle books for sale and thought I would like to make some too. It seemed to be in my and my machine’s sewing ability. They will be fun adding stitching later too.  First I had to make some nice felt for the covers.

I started with two layers of white.

and added some colour and pattern

I found an old piece of prefelt

It wasn’t as thick as I wanted so I added a layer of fibres to one side.

and some other bits that were thicker.

Then, because I must be able to embroider sheep, I made a meadow.

Next, I had to cut them to size. I went looking and couldn’t find anything that looked like a standard size, so I cut them to what I thought would be usable sizes. Some larger and some smaller, depending on the piece of felt and what I thought would work.

I cut some middles. Each piece of felt has a needle and pin piece and a pouch piece. When they are sewn in there will be 2 pouches (front and back) and 2 pin pieces ( in the middle). I am wondering If I should add another needle and pin page or something else. What do you wish your needle case had in it?


Book Binding, Decorative Papers & Costumes

Book Binding, Decorative Papers & Costumes

Undertaking this post I was in a place of total indecision….to tell you about my book binding exploits or report on a wonderful costume exhibition….I’ve decided on both. So before you read on make yourselves a drink, plump up the cushions and get comfortable.

Decorative papers for book binding….

A while ago I mentioned I was asked to teach a workshop. This was to be to my local textile group following our AGM and there would be no charge (unlike normal visiting tutor workshops), then I was advised there were likely to be around 30-35 people….!!! Knowing this well before Christmas I let a few ideas percolate through the layers and finally at the beginning of the new year I set to creating a few examples of books and decorative papers. I should explain here that I haven’t done any book binding (except for the stitched eco printed leaf book shown in previous post) for around 13 years so I had to completely refresh my memory.

I decided to make ‘leather’ paper (using tissue paper) and crepe paper dyed designs. I discovered this last one many years ago, by total accident after I spilled some water. Rather than start from scratch I dug out my teaching notes from 2003 (it pays being a hoarder and never throwing things out!)

I once taught adults with learning disabilities, so these notes were geared to their needs.

The colouring I used was food colouring (easy for anyone to repeat) and some left-over inks that I had, in total – red, yellow, orange, green, brown, blue and violet. The tissue paper samples ranged from white to pale grey and mucky yellow.

Laying white copy paper directly on top of the tissue, and also on the turned-back film

I always try to maximise opportunities, so used the surplus surface colouring to make ‘ghost’ prints. These were easy to do and even when still damp can be over printed (with care) several times creating wonderful colour designs.


Ghost prints
Some finished leather paper samples, dried and ironed flat.

Crepe paper designs –

A blurred photo unfortunately, but I hope you can still make out the texture of the paper as I don’t know what it is called outside of the UK.

Again colours were limited to what our group had to keep costs down. The technique is very simple – cut pieces of crepe and sandwich between water sprayed paper. Obviously for this to work it is necessary to have non-dye fast crepe paper!

I personally love overlapping the pieces as the dyes bleed into each other.
From this technique there is also a fabulous by product….the actual crepe paper….the resulting pieces can be gorgeous

With the ‘un-arty’ scruffy wet crepe pieces I decided to scrunch, twist, roll and dob onto lining paper….the result was interesting….BUT……..the whole reason this works is because the paper is not dye fast. I had coloured fingers & nails for 3 days afterwards – so be warned!

Book binding….

The books – I made several small samples to stimulate ideas for ways to present textile works.

Accordian fold books – as the name implies the pages are continuous and can be coloured or plain, attached both ends or one end, folded to create pockets or cut on a slant. They can be bound in a folding cover hard or soft, or with individual front and back covers. The covers were bound using leather paper on used Christmas cards (cost saving) or other decorative papers such as a paper candy bag and floristry wrapping. If you look closely at the centre photo you can see the inside end paper is a ghost print.

A particular favourite

Stitched signatures – again as the name implies the pages are stitched in. These can be stitched on the inside or the outside allowing for embellishment with coloured thread or beads. The covers can be hard or soft. For the samples I used both using the crepe paper design pieces, coloured paper and envelope paper….take a look at the inside of envelopes and there are a wealth of patterns to be explored.

Crepe design paper used for the covers & ghost prints used internally

Pegged concertina – my name for this book type. A ‘spine’ is created by concertinering some card. Each folded section is then fed through a slit in the pages and held in place with a ‘peg’ (card, lolly pop stick etc) that is longer than the height of the spine. The covers are usually individual (front & back), the ‘spine’ being secured either on the inside or outsde.

With so many (imagine 30 ‘students’, a large hall and newspaper all over the floor with pieces drying) I didn’t get any time what so ever to take photos of work in production so I can only show you the samples I prepared in advance.

The workshop was definitely a challenge on time and energy….although I knew every wrinkle and possible question, had prepared ‘stage’ examples (to prevent boredom watching glue dry!) and had broken the workshop down into various sections so as not to inundate folk with information I still also learned a lot, the important points being –

  • Don’t be too ambitious – I’d planned 3 books, in reality only 1 was manageable coupled with making the papers.
  • Remember folk struggle with measuring – I’ve spent a life time measuring at the drawing board and working with paper so for me it is second nature.
  • Keep the numbers low – the instructions, whilst simple to me, can be difficult to others which requires a lot of individual attention.

Would I do it again? Yes. I’ve been very diligant in keep notes of everything – from supplies keeping costs low to ‘what could I do better next time’ notes………I just hope it won’t be another 13 years!


If you are still with me then I’ll tell you about a wonderful exhibition called Costumes, that I attended with my textile group.

The costumes were all loaned to the Preston Park Museum from Angels. Angels (the name is the original surname) is a 7th generation run family business creating, making and loaning costumes to the theatre and film industry globally. Based in London the warehouse has 8 miles of clothing storage rails and evidently anyone going to work there spends 3 months learning the ‘filing’ system before they start their work proper. They employ specialists in the field from costumiers, miliners, cobblers to wig makers etc.

As a group we were guided around the exhibition by the curator who gave us some wonderful anecdotes to the costumes. And – we were allowed to get inches from the fabric, much to our delight.

The original dress worn by Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra.






This is a replica of Queen Elisabeth II coronation dress for the film The Queen. When a TV series was subsequently made, the dress was already in existence and fortunately it fit Claire Foy who plays ER II.
Queen Elizabeth was played by Judi Dench. She appeared in this dress for only 8 mins and it weighs 28lbs!!!!
It has metal that runs inside down the back to hold Judi and the dress upright.

As a group of textile enthusiasts cameras were clicking endlessly with this particular costume….the details were beautiful.

This dress was worn by Cate Blanchett. The museum have several medieval type mannequins with very tiny waists to display vintage corsetted garments….they used one for this costume but the museum staff couldn’t do this dress up! On close inspection none of us could believe the waist size.

Dresses for lesser characters in Beauty and the Beast


Tom Baker was the 4th incarnation of the Doctor. He was given ideas for his identity, but felt something was missing. He decided a scarf might work and gave his gran a bag of wool to make one. When he went to collect it he discovered that his gran had misunderstood and had used the entire bag of wool….his identity was born.




Harrison Ford’s costume – sadly no anecdote here.
Worn by Kate Winslett and Leonardo DiCaprio. Note the sailor’s jumper – the ‘White Star Line’ is backwards. The only place the filming could get a good ‘un-modern’ shot of the ship in harbour was the wrong way round to how it would have been setting off on it’s maiden voyage….solution – film it with the crew wearing backwards writing then turn the film over!
Bohemian Rhapsody was just on the point of being released when this exhibition was on. Angels surprised the museum by adding these costumes to the loaned collection.

And lastly –

Aidan Turner’s Poldark costume. I’m not sure if Poldark has ventured beyond our British shores so this may just apply to British audiences but the actor is….mmmmmmmm!
He has appeared a few times topless and has a well turned out physique – evidently in addition to your normal make-up artists there are special artists to enhance six-packs….I never knew that!

The curator told us of a lady in a previous group who went up to the costume to ‘smell’ Aidan Turner. We are a group of mature ladies but we were like young star struck girls who all went up to do likewise. I can report that Angels sadly did too good a job of keeping their costume clean!

Preston Park Museum is small but the exhibition was great. Their next exhibition is Wedding Belles: 140 years of Bridal Fashion 12 March – 6 May 2019 if you are in the area.

If you have made it this far congratulations….I hope you have found something in my offerings to interest you….now you deserve another drink!

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