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Very simple monoprints

Monoprint is such a lovely relaxed way to make an image, especially if you use a photocopy as part of the process!

Today, I just wanted to puddle around getting creative and not too heavily into something serious. Here's a 30 minute afternoon session whilst waiting for the rain to stop.

Step 1

Find something you'd like to reproduce. Here's a photocopy of a flower from a copyright free book.

I've drawn it onto a piece of printer paper - this is just so I don't mess up the original and can use it again.

Next stage is to find something to roller some ink onto. I've used Dura-La, a thin transparent film which comes in pads (photo - no affiliations) You can use glass, perspex, polythene etc. I know someone who uses plastic carrier bags.

Rollering ink can be a bit messy, so I like to cover my table with something disposable or wipeable. Messy Mats are brilliant for this.

You can use acrylic paint (Open acrylics are best as they stay wetter longer), oil paints, printing inks - oil or water based.

I squeezed a little bit of Caligo linseed oil printing ink onto the sheet and used a brayer to roll the ink in a thin layer- about half to one inch squeezed straight from the tube.

It makes a gorgeous crackling sound when it's just right, so if yours is silent you probably have too much ink on the sheet - scrape a bit off and keep rolling until you hear the crackling.

Find a piece of paper to make your print on - it can be anything from newspaper to watercolour paper.

Gently lay your inked sheet, ink side down, onto the paper. Try not to press.

Lay the picture you want to copy on top.

Use a biro to go over the outline of your image. Try very hard not to press on the sheet with your hand.

Here's the flower. The background has bits of ink which have transferred accidentally to the paper as well as the image, but I love this "noise" around the image.

The image can be left to dry or used whilst still damp to make any over-colouring seep and run into it. If you've monprinted onto watercolour paper, you could get some lovely effects. I've just popped some paint onto this to show you what I mean, but I'm sure you can do better than me!! 😜 Not really my thing.

But don't stop!

Your print plate can be used again and again without re-inking. If you like, you can use the brayer to just roller out your previous marks, but it's not necessary. Here's a self portrait, and you can just see the biro marks on the photocopy. I love doing the hair! I also left out one of my extra chins.

It's a very easy way to get an original portrait which you can colour, stitch, make part of a collage etc.

Infinity scarf made in less than 30 mins


I had some silk left over from another project and because it was too small to do much with, I made a scarf.

It's much easier to watch someone do this than to follow photos and instructions, and that's why the above link is so useful if you want to have a go yourself - it's free. I can vouch for Laura Kemshall's very clear instructions, and anyone could have a go as it's such a quick and easy sewing project especially for a rainy afternoon!

It would be right to say that I haven't quite mastered the art of the selfie, but you can get a good idea.

Your havin' a larf!

I think it was a couple of months ago, that I began posting about felting. I made a collection of small pin cushions for a charity sale that was cancelled.

I thought I'd open a small shop to sell them, but to be honest that hasn't worked!! So, I wrapped them in cellophane and took them to a couple of charity shops to see if they would like some pin cushions to sell. They wouldn't take them. Why? Well, unbelievably, it's because they contained pins!!!! Hilarious.

Descending - The Quilt as a Canvas. I begin painting

This morning, I've begun to put some paint on the quilt. Originally, the idea was to let the two figures on the left fade into the background, by painting some fabric and applying in strips, which would then be painted a bit like this.

I've always loved the juxtaposition of a completely finished painting ie the hands, and the unfinished remainder. It really focuses your attention

However, I had a change of heart and it wasn't working for me. I decided to go for colour but perhaps in a more painterly way than usual. Might not be possible knowing me. Here's the first hour anyway!

When couture meets quilts

A week or so ago, I had a meeting with Lee. He was the tutor for the Pattern Drafting course (see previous posting)

Lee is a fashion designer from Nottingham who wants to create a new collection for a year/18months time, to launch at Fashions Finest  during Fashion Week, in London. After his degree Lee spent time at the atelier of Victoria Beckham. It's a world that delights and inspires him, but is completely new to me!

However, we do have something in common - the love of making stories with a kick.

Over the 2 day duration of the course, I naturally chatted a bit with my fellow students, and my love of textiles sneaked out at some point. Lee took a look and liked the style of them and ended up suggesting that we work together on his collection.

Although at that point Lee only had ideas of where he wanted to go, he was keen to get started and involve me in the process as much as possible, so we met up for a brainstorm a couple of days later. Obviously designing clothes and making them is entirely for him to do, but I am going to try and help with the drawings and stitched and quilted fabrics he wants to use in the collection. Although he wants the pieces to be fun, he also likes the juxtaposition of real and sometimes darker meaning.

So, stay tuned!  We will start a blog before long and I will also post here about it all. The collection name will probably be The Rabbit and the Rainbow. (Lee is the rabbit, and guess what? I am the Rainbow!)

The Quilt as a Canvas and designing a Kimono top

Progress continues on Descending. I needed more stitch - the piece didn't, but I did! Purely instinctive. I've a bit more to do as you can see, but then I will start the painting of it all.

Moving on from The Life Story quilts, I think my collection of new pieces will be The Quilt as a Canvas. If you cast your mind back a year or so ago, you may remember that this was a title I gave to a proposed exhibition I wanted to do with others but at the time I couldn't get a gallery interested, and other things in life also took over. Time to start again.

Having gone on a course to learn the basics of making a pattern block for clothes, I've been buying some equipment. First of all this book:

It explains the process and is jammed full of blocks you can draft for yourself. Once you've got a grasp of what you're doing, then the instructions are quite straight forward.  However, if I'd have seen this book before my pattern cutting course, I wouldn't have bought it because it looks so complicated!!

Here's the drafted pattern pieces, and the beginnings of the toile. Something this loose doesn't really need a fitting, but I think I will alter the neck line and make it a bit longer.

If you go to the trouble of drafting yourself a pattern, you deserve a treat of some really nice fabric - it's what I'm telling myself to justify a bit of hand printed silk from Beckford Mill

I'll post again with the finished photo! (She says hopefully)

A start with pastels

An introduction to pastels - Leamington Spa Art Gallery and Museum £18 for 3.5 hours

Definitely recommend this one - a gentle start to a new medium. All materials provided for the price plus tea and coffee. One teacher and one helper so lots of attention!

How lovely to able to wander down to the local art gallery and spend a couple of hours pootling around learning new artistic things. Do check out your own nearby gallery and see if they have any courses you can join in. Today's course was very gentle and a nice introduction to pastels - I have used oils before but not really the chalky ones.

I'd be lying if I said I came away with an amazing piece of work ready to hang!! It wasn't the point. I spent a little while just playing with the pastels and papers provided and started with oil pastels and drew from life - a collection of fruit and veg, bottles, teapots etc.

Rather bright blue paper but it made a good contrast to the reds, oranges and greens. Part of the pastel thing is that you choose a colour paper as a ground - it could be mid tone, dark or lights and you can base your colours around that. I tried white paper with the chalk pastels and should have gone for a colour as it would have made life easier and been more dramatic.

Oil pastel sketches of veg. Very quick and I used a blending tool made of paper to put in some scratches.

The chalk pastels weren't as vibrant, though I guess if you paid for top quality pastels, they would hold more pigment than my cheapies from that well known High Street crafty shop.  I stood up for this one and used an easel - always easier for me to see - and made a start. I didn't get far as I ran out of time, but you may be able to make out where I was going!

The dreaded FB and a pastels course.

Just to let you know that Facebook have allowed me back again - had to be reviewed twice - but if you'd like to catch up with me and life in general then I'm on a brand new page called The Life and Times of A Rainbow, and there's a link in the sidebar. Thank you!

In my quest for new things, I'm off on another course tomorrow - using chalk pastels. I'm not generally a fan as I find they ever-so-slightly put my teeth on edge! Still if you don't try, you'll never know. I will of course be posting picks afterwards. I've very happily used oil pastels before however.

Bikes and Kites - one of my first pictures in oil pastel.

Pattern drafting - 2 day beginners course

2 day beginners pattern drafting course at Carolyn Rose.
(Warwickshire, about £180. No affiliations - have a look for a course near you by googling.)

If you click the link above you'll see it takes you to a 5 day course to make a beautiful tailored jacket from a pattern you've drafted yourself to fit your body.

Ultimately I'd like to do something like that, although I don't feel I have the shape and height to suit a tailored jacket!! But the principle of making something to fit remains the same, and my own 2 day course started at the beginning of things, by making a bodice pattern to suit my measurements - couture I guess!

What's involved

I'm a beginner dressmaker having only started a few months ago, so had no idea what to expect from a pattern drafting course, but was hoping I could find out more about how to make clothes which fitted my body shape - not all commercial patterns do that terribly well.

This is what we were aiming for.

So what's involved in pattern making? Well an astonishing amount! I can't talk you through a step by step process because everyone is different and the pattern making and the fitting and adjustment of your toile is personalised to you. I'd suggest a course or similar, where someone can stand beside you and put in pins and pleats, darts and tucks to your toile to get a close fit. but I can certainly take you through what's involved on a broad basis.

The first step is to measure your body accurately - you may find you need someone to help you with this. Do it 2 or 3 times perhaps just to make sure, as this is what everything - literally - hangs on.

 Simple mathematical calculations

To begin, you take a sheet of pattern paper and mark a completely straight line.  All your drawing stems from this line, and there are many simple mathematical calculations using your measurements, which will then enable you to put in the shape and end up with a pattern piece like the one above.

I've got to be honest, I found the drawing quite difficult to begin with, simply because it was so strange and I had no idea what was involved or what I was doing. I was a little slow at the start, but was given lots of help from our tutor, Lee, and managed to catch up in the end and not only make a bodice but also draft a sleeve.

Below, this photo shows my basic shape bodice, but has extra bits. It looks a little scary, but it's complex because of all the alterations that I made after trying on the calico toile.  This is a front and a back bodice block (the different coloured pens make it easy to identify the front and back pieces) and you trace off a useable pattern piece onto another piece of paper, but all your alterations go back on the block. Little notes and explanations are scribbled on as reminders. You also need to add a seam allowance, in this case, 1 cm.

So, day 1 was spent making this as accurate as possible and then tracing off front and back pattern pieces and cutting the shapes out in calico. This was then stitched - first the darts, then the sides and shoulder seams. The back is left open so that you can try it on for fit.

Having made the bodice shape and tried it on, you need a jolly good friend to help you to put pins in the places you need bits added or taken away. First you need to pin the back to the seam allowance then look at yourself in a mirror, deciding what you like and don't and what's comfortable.

My first fitting. The toile needed a tuck to make the front sit properly. The boob darts at the bottom went too high - basically they should stop where your nipple is. The armhole also needed a tuck as it was gaping, and I felt the shoulder length was a little too much. You can just see some pins on the front.

The toile was removed and those alterations were put onto the block and new pattern pieces were traced.

Here's an example of why it's difficult to give you a step by step; to make a simple tuck in the front of the toile, meant after the alterations were transferred back to the block, the new pattern piece when cut, wouldn't lie flat, so I had to cut on the bottom of the pattern piece and insert an extra bit. Doing that made the toile too large around the waist so I also had to adjust the darts to take up the extra. 

We got there and I now have a piece that fits reasonably well although I am going to make it again at home in the peace of my studio with acres of time to think!

Pattern Drafting

If you've tuned in to learn more about pattern drafting, could you give me a few days and visit again???  I'm off on a two day course to find out more and will let you know what it all involves when I've found out for myself.

I know I have to wear tight fitting clothes and be prepared to spend a long time measuring myself in lots of detail, but not sure why that takes 2 days yet.

The idea is to be able to draft my own patterns for tops that will fit me really well, as the commercial ones don't always allow for my shape.

The piece I'm working on is coming along well I think but I've decided to do more stitching before painting. It's an odd one and I keep telling myself to stop fussing and just get on with it, but I'm not quite sure I know where I'm going with it! At least I seem to have landed on a name, Descending... not only in age and health but as an explanation of the slightly odd composition.

The fabric on the two younger bodies has been painted and sewn on in strips to provide texture - I could have done it as one piece but I wasn't quite sure where I was going and at the time it seemed like a good idea. I shall now stitch these heavily before painting - possibly gesso to add more texture - and then shades of Paynes Grey. Mum's quilt will be knocked back quite a bit to tone it down. Then I can paint the portraits, which I want to pop out of the background and be the focus.

It's possible that foq isn't going to be for me - I've been thinking it over - but if not, I'll still try and go ahead with some kind of exhibition, somewhere. Wish me luck!