Featured post

Copyright for all text and images @bellabow.studio

Monoprint experiment using oil paints and Dura-Lar

(No affiliations for any products)

Some time ago I bought some sheets of Dura-Lar after watching an artist on Youtube. I didn't use it straight away as I forgot got caught in a creative whirlwind, and it got put with some other stuff in the back of The Cupboard, where I found it this morning.

I think I bought it to try drypoint, but it seems a little thin, so maybe monoprint? Who knows! 😜 Its an archival polyester film treated on both sides to accept water based mediums (in other words, you can paint on it without the paint going spotty and clumpy) and markers and inks. Its reusable, thin, see through, and cuts cleanly.

I tried it for monoprint, but it didn't come out well.  Here's the process anyway - if you want a better how-to please do join me here where I use polythene instead. It would probably suit different type of monoprint.

Here's the equipment. Oil paints, spatula for spreading paint onto the film, masking tape, a frame which acts as a mask for nice clean edges, and some shapes - I've used circle cut outs which were to hand.

You'll also need a sketchbook or paper, and something to clean your hands with - kitchen towel/baby wipes etc.

Use your spatula to spread a little paint onto a sheet of the film. I've used oils as they keep open for days which allows for mucking about a bit, but Open Acrylics would be ok too.  It's nice to be able to smudge the edges of the paint with your finger.

Unless you're an artistic genius or just know what you're doing, then I'd steer clear of ordinary acrylics as the working time is short and they dry too quickly. Caligo printing inks would be good and would stay open for days, but Akua would be too wet I think.

I went a bit mad and used 4 colours. A little ambitious for such a small area in my sketchbook.

I've used a spare mount stuck in with masking tape to hold it still.

I've lifted the sheet with the bronze coloured paint on, and gently pressed it onto the sketchbook page. I've then added some cut out circles as a mask (yes, mine are fabric, but paper would work better - they were to hand!)

 This time I've added some alizarin crimson on top of the bronze.

Then green and then black.  Like I say not a wonderous thing, but an experiment that took a few minutes and has led me off into another direction.

I think less is probably more.

New Look Pattern 6163 - Blue cord duster coat

I really liked the look of this coat and chose some lovely dark blue velvet cord from a local shop.

The pattern specifies 2.5 yards of 60" wide fabric - I used 2 metres and had some to spare despite the nap.

There were no buttons and fastening is by hook and eye sewn on after making at the neck line.

I felt the pattern was slightly unsophisticated at times eg the hook and eye arrangement above is ok, but they would be better hidden behind the facings as with the Strand Coat by Merchant and Mills. The collar and front facings were sewn on together which made a heavy seam at the neck despite very careful layering and it was tricky to manipulate 2 things at once.  If making again, I would reduce the size of the side slits or even do away with them altogether.

Threads: Making and top stitching, Gutermann polyester. Machine: Pfaff 4.2 Quilt Expressions

Sketchbooks - A very quick and easy way to do a painting

 I'm a great fan of watching artists paint on Youtube, and have painted numerous pears in a relaxed style courtesy of one of them, just because it's such fun to do.

It got me to thinking about applying these principles to make a really easy and very quick painting for sketchbooks that everyone could perhaps do.  The following took under 5 minutes!

First of all, choose something you'd like to paint keeping the outline simple - a pear, orange, apple, bottle, whatever floats your boat. Take a photo and then copy onto an A4 sheet. Cut out the shape of the object.

Start by popping on a colour to a sketchbook page, or a piece of paper. You can use a brush, piece of kitchen towel or whatever you think. You just need to block out the white and not make it too thick a covering.

Choose some paint colours you like or that match the picture you've chosen.

Apply daubs of paint in a very rough outline of your shape - doesn't matter a bit if you end up covering the whole sheet by mistake. Don't worry about the colours at this stage, just make it interesting! Leave to dry.

Take the shape that you've cut out. Here I've used the perfume bottle I drew last week.

Place on top of the dry painted paper.

Paint a background over the paper cutout.  Things to remember about the background: paint half of one side a light colour, the other a darker colour and blend them a bit at the top.

Paint a table in the foreground by using another colour.

Paint a blob of something dark at the bottom of the shape for a shadow.

Peel off the paper cutout.

Add extra colour to the shape - a light colour to show a bit of light hitting the object and a dark on the other side.

You don't have to do this last step, but it makes the world of difference.

Deer and Doe Botany Jacket.

You'd be forgiven, looking at the image on the front of the pattern, that this jacket was a bit longer than it turned out to be. Of course the neck to bum measurements were on the back of the pattern, but I didn't see this when in the shop!

The pattern is printed on good quality paper that could be used lots of times, and I had no problems making it up, and there's nothing I would change if I made it again as it fits my size 14 as it should.

The fabric I chose was bought on Etsy and came from Japan, and I used plain old Gutermann poly threads in dark blue and deep pink for topstitching (there's a tiny tiny fleck of pink running through the fabric)

I'd be happier with a longer jacket (you can of course lengthen, or just buy a different pattern!) for my shape.  Sideways on is not wonderful and I resemble a bell!! 😂 I will avoid garments with a gathered back in future.

I will try and find out all about pattern matching for my next non-plain fabric.

Bit of a mull whilst thinking about quilting

It's been a long crawl from Christmas to be honest, but so cheering today to see that spring has begun to make things grow. I just love the fresh growth on this shrub whose name I can never remember. It was given to me by Linda Kemshall on a visit some years ago now, and after DH said how lovely he thought it was. It's leaves have featured in numerous of my art based bits and bobs.

I've been doing some drawing with a view to making a still life quilt. I haven't done any quilting since I finished the Life Series. A few days ago someone contacted me saying what a shame I'd stopped, and although that was very lovely, it made me think. I'm not sure if I've stopped or not, or am just resting before starting on a new idea (of which there's loads btw). I love the processes of sewing and painting.

Trouble is, all the ideas I'm having are better suited to painting. Yes, I can make still life quilts, or portrait quilts, but in the back of my mind, there's a little voice saying why not just paint it and how will making a quilt make your ideas better?

So I'm at an impasse! I'm thinking - a slow process at the best of times.

I began a spot of sketching yesterday whilst mulling.

The Avid Seamstress - The Blouse

I only twigged about an hour ago, that it wasn't The Arid Seamstress but The Avid Seamstress. Doh, a mix of daftness and a difficult font.

You'd think patterns would be quite similar, but this one by the Avid Seamstress is quite lovely (no affiliations by the way)

It comes in a large fat package which includes various bits and bobs including photos of the finished blouse, back and front, a card for you to fill in and keep with your measurements, good quality paper pattern which is printed so it's easy to read (no struggling with brown tissue paper and blue lines) and an instruction booklet, with lots of photos, taking you through the stages with great thoroughness!

If this was your first pattern, I think you'd be able to manage it well, as there are also only 4 pieces.

The fabric I've chosen is a light cotton lawn by Lady McEllroy at £15.99 a metre (quite expensive for me but it was lovely and cheerful) The pattern says you need 2 metres, but to be honest I could have done it with much less and now have about 3/4 metre left over.

Very easy to make, a good fit. The sleeves are elasticated, and if I make again, I think I'll put a cuff on instead to ring the changes.

Fabric from Japan

I have gone a little fabric mad, finding I can suddenly make reasonably fitting clothes, and having access to the world of cloth through on line shopping! I never seem to do things by halves and get completely lost in my various enthusiasms 😍

This lovely piece is 100% cotton poplin and is for a kimono jacket I have planned. I'm delighted with it, but would give a warning if you're from the UK. VAT is payable on all sales from around the world and this was levied at about £4, but also because the Post Office have to do the paperwork, they charge an additional £8.

This puts the price of the cloth up a fair bit and I hadn't factored it in. It won't stop be from buying - in fact next time, I'll just buy more so that the whole purchase is worth the extra!!

Today I'm popping a stand up collar on a shirt I'm making, but will blog the pattern details, fabrics and threads later.

Imperial War Museum North

I'm digressing a bit for this posting. On a recent visit to the Imperial War Museum North, I came across the above sewing machine which I stared at for some time. It belonged to Hetem and Syleme Ahmeti.

Their house and contents were destroyed by NATO cluster bombs during the 1999 Kosovo War. Before the war Mrs Ahmeti had earned an income mending clothes with a sewing machine which was destroyed in the attack. One year after the war ended, the Ahmetis were still living in a United Nations refugee tent. They could not rebuilt their house because of the danger of unexploded bombs.

On the 11th September 2001 the Twin Towers were destroyed They were the tallest towers in the world when they were completed in 1974, standing as glistening beacons of structural innovation. They employed a radical framed tube structure to carry the load in their facades – thereby doing away with the need for columns inside, freeing up the interior for more office space. Imperial War Museum North has part of the towers - many were sent to museums around the world - to remind everyone of the horrors of the day and war in general.

The scale of the mangled metal and the destructive power needed to do this to a building were horrifying.

Vogue pattern V8793 - stretchy top by Katherine Tilton

This pattern worked well.  I chose 3 different jersey fabrics with moderate stretch and although trickier to sew on a domestic machine, it did have a stretch stitch which coped well. I double sewed all the seams and zigzagged the raw edges. An overlocker would have been good to try, and it's on my shopping list for this year I think.

I may put an extra bit on the bottom to make it longer (I did hold the pattern against me at the beginning to check but can't have got the placement quite right.) I also deliberately put the collar on slightly sideways as I thought it looked better. I didn't bother with the zip decoration on the collar as I wasn't sure it was quite me but it looked very doable.

Fits well, reasonably easy if fiddly to do, no pattern problems, and I'll probably make another one with the leftover fabrics.

The Strand pattern - Merchant and Mills

I've been doing a bit more dressmaking and am trying out all the pattern makers I can. I will be back to quilts, painting and printing shortly, but am enjoying making some clothes for a change.

This Merchant and Mills pattern is a coat called The Strand. It isn't lined and the skill level says intermediate. I had no trouble understanding the construction, but did think for a simple unlined coat, those instructions were a little complex. There did seem to be a big problem in that the back bottom piece didn't fit the back top piece in the size I cut out. (To be more explicit, the top was supposed to be larger than the bottom to allow a turning for hiding hooks and eyes. It wasn't - the bottom however seemed to have that extra bit) Not to worry it was sortable.

I would hesitate before buying another pattern by them though, despite the contemporary feel. It fits well to be fair and has lots of pockets!

I've eaten some spatula - and a recipe for giant chocolate chip cookies

Just suppose that you've made a large batch of very very moreish giant chocolate chip cookies for some guests, and then washed up. Just suppose that you were putting the nice clean utensils back in the drawer, and found with horror, a lump missing from the spatula you'd just used.

What would you do? Would you I wonder, whilst looking anxiously at your cookies, hunt high and low for the missing bit, perhaps checking the drains, cupboards, mixer, dishwasher etc? Well I did, but couldn't find anything.

So where was this bit of missing rubber? Was it in the biscuits that had just been baked - 16 very large and quite delicious warm biscuits? Would you throw those bits of heaven away, wasting the ingredients, or would you warn your guests to chew carefully as you handed round the plate? Perhaps you would eat them all yourself because you don't like waste, and whats a bit of rubber anyway?

Yep. Burp! I didn't find the missing bit.

This recipe was given to me so I don't know the true author, but they're very nice! With or without spatula.


2 beaten eggs
11oz self raising flour
8oz of chocolate of your choice
8oz soft butter
6oz caster sugar
4oz light brown sugar (muscovado)
About a teaspoon of vanilla extract

You'll need several baking trays and to heat the oven to 190/170 fan/gas5


Put butter in a bowl and beat until smooth. Mix together sugars and stir into the butter. Add the eggs and vanilla, beating well. Add the flour and stir in the choc.

Use a large tablespoon to spoon the mix onto the baking trays. They'll spread so don't try to put more than 4 on a tray.

Bake for 13/15 minutes until golden.

Making cushions

I'm making a set of cushions to match some wallpaper and the sofa in my DD's house. I'm about half way through.

It's been tricky to buy the right colours, so I mixed some paint and textile screen printing medium and have been having a lovely time making designs on linen furnishing weight fabric.

Here's some photos! No piping or edgings/frilly bits as they just need to be hardy and simple to withstand daily life with small children using them for beds, fights, trampolining, stepping stones, and numerous other imaginative things.

A mix of yellow ochre, yellow green, black, and screen printed cow parsley.

Perhaps not the finest of finishes, but I like the simple crafted look. Stencils and stamps


Soy wax screening.