Sunday, December 21, 2008

Holly sprite

Christmas must be getting close, the holly sprites have started to come out to play!

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I'm not best pleased with this, because I didn't get the playful look I was after. I used a head pattern with a centre seam and a nose, instead of a flat face, and I can't seem to get the cheeky look that I like. Also, her hands are too big, and I should have given her a more 'twirly' skirt. Never mind, I'm using her as a christmas ornament.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Rockin' Robin

It's Christmas, so I got seasonal and used Nellie's bird pattern to make a robin:

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He's made in brown faux suede with a velvet breast, felt beak and wired legs. Because it's Christmas he got a nice glittery look with some red bugle beads and a piece of holly in his beak. Here he is with some friends:

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This is what I told two little boys that visited my stall the other weekend while their parents were getting coffee and cakes.

"That lady in the pretty dress is the Holly Mother. She looks after all the Holly Elves and Holly Sprites. The Holly Elves are boys and the Holly Sprites are girls. They sleep all through the Spring and Summer, and they wake up when the apples begin to ripen and the berries and the rose hips start to turn red. They live in the holly bushes, where we cannot see them and they eat nuts and berries. The Holly Elves, being boys, hardly ever wash themselves or brush their hair, so they are always up and about first. The Sprites, being girls, take ages to get ready.

The Holly Elves and Sprites are at their busiest in December, when we are all getting ready for Christmas. They creep up to the windows at night to look at all the shiny decorations and the Christmas trees in our houses. Sometimes, if they can get into the house; through a crack, or perhaps a mousehole, they wait until everyone has gone to bed and then they go right up to the Christmas tree for a really good look. They cannot resist the sugar mice, the candy canes or the chocolate tree ornaments, they are so much nicer than wrinkled berries and nuts.

Sometimes they steal them, so perhaps we shouldn't always blame those naughty children!"

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Chirpy cheep cheep!

When I first saw these birds on Nellie's Needles I knew I'd have to make one. Nellie made the pattern available for anyone to use - with a request to send a picture or a link when a bird was made. This is my 'S'Mockeryfied' version of Nellie's bird.

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The fabric for the back is very fine space dyed silk, overprinted with matt gold metallic paint. I quilted it onto a piece of thin felted fabric. The wing is yellow sari silk with woven gold spots, treated in the same way. The wing was not stiff enough, so I applied it to a piece of synthetic felted dishcloth. The gussets are made of the same dishcloth fabric. I added a couple of rows of buttonhole stitch in perle cotton around each wing, and some decorative hand stitching on the breast and under the tail in stranded cotton. Buttons to attach the wings, and beads for the eyes and there it is! The legs are galvanised wire pushed through plastic electrical sleeving (it makes the wire easier to bend) covered in buttonhole stitch. Here's a close-up:

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and here's a view of the other side:

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I think I'll be making more of these, and I think I'll add a bit more 'bling' to this one and use it as a Christmas ornament!

To see all of Nellie's birds, and others made from her pattern, go to her blog and click on the 'bird' label in the sidebar.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

A bit more tarted up TAST

Another of the TAST samples I pulled out. This one was oyster stitch and double knot stitch.

Again, I added a border, but this time I needlepunched dyed wool fleece (roving) to black muslin (scrim). I cut it into strips and applied it log cabin style to the sample. Then I machine quilted it onto a synthetic felt dishcloth with programmed stitches using metallic thread to give it a bit of sparkle.

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Using simple stitches; buttonhole, french knots and straight stitch I added a patterned border around the sample in the centre. Then I finished it off by buttonholing all around the edge.

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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Tarting up the TAST

When I read about Sharon's new challenge for next year, I decided it was time I did something with some of my old TAST pieces.

This was the sample for knotted cretan stitch:

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I gave it a log cabin type border with some strips of calico (muslin) dyed with silk paints from the reject bin. Then I machine quilted it to a synthetic felted dishcloth and added a few rows of running stitch. Finally I buttonholed the edges to finish it off.

For lots of reasons, I didn't make a very good job of this year's challenge, but I'm really looking forward to the stitching challenge next year. So I'm taking a few of last years pieces a bit further!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I try hand needlefelting

I've seen lots of beautifully sculpted hand needlefelted items. I use a felting needle sometimes to attach the hair to my dolls, so I thought I'd have a go. First I made these maggots to attach to Grandson Number One's mummy costume for halloween:

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I started with a small roll of polyester stuffing, and wrapped it with a thin layer of wool fleece (roving). Then I needle felted it and it worked really well, so I sculpted in the segments and added the nasty little eyes.

Flushed with success, I made this funny little lizard in much the same way:

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I made the body first, then I made the legs and 'needled' them on.

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To attach the wings, a piece of 'mangled' silk, I 'needled' them on, then put a couple of strands of knitting yarn along the 'seam' and 'needled' that in to make it secure.

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These little bits didn't take long, using polyester stuffing as a 'core' speeded up the process a lot. And, of course, having a 'core' of polyester stuffing means they weigh next to nothing. I'd like to have a go at something bigger when I get the time!

UPDATE: the first comment on this post was made by a spammer advertising pokerplaying - I can't remove it, because Blogger is currently not showing a trash can on my comments page. I HATE these people!

UPDATE: thanks for the tip Helen, I've deleted that comment!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A question for the embellishers (machine needlefelters)

Has anyone else experienced discomfort or felt 'chesty' after using their embellisher machine?

This has happened to me two or three times now - the first time I thought I was catching a respiratory tract infection. The second time the GP thought I had an allergy. But I used my needlepunch machine quite a bit last week and I've been uncomfortable and wheezy for four days now. I've got a DIY chipboard/MDF mask to wear once I feel better.

This could have been part of the reason:

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The bolero and waist decoration are scraps of silk and wisps of fleece needlepunched together in a soluble fabric sandwich, machine quilted and then rinsed. The trousers are chiffon with wisps of fleece punched through from the back for a little colour and a lot of texture, and again machine quilted. All the garments were embellished with beads, sequins and buttonhole stitch in multicoloured stranded cotton.

We had the builders in last week..............

so I hid upstairs and played with my machines. I got out the embellisher and some silk sari scraps and had a good old 'mangle'! I needlepunched the scraps onto a felt-like synthetic dishcloth then machine quilted the result with preprogrammed stitches. What to do with it? I decided to try my first stump doll. I used the embellisher fabric for the 'skirt', adding a frill made by running the raw edges of a folded strip of silk under the needlepunch machine.

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Clearly I'm still suffering a 'hang-over' from last year's TAST because I herringboned the frill to the skirt and decorated it with french knots.

To make the top of the dress I wrapped the body in pieces of fleece to match the colours in the skirt and tied it down with stuffed knitting ribbon attached with buttonhole stitch. Then I added more buttonhole stitch and beads for extra texture.

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Here's a picture of the finished doll:

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Few More for the Llammas Line-up

I used scraps from making the 'Merbabes' and some 'embellisher' fabric from the 'might come in useful' bin to make these tags and pindolls. The faces are coloured pencil, p.micron pen and fabric paint on polyester suede. I drew around a large cotton reel, painted the faces, then cut them out with pinking shears. Some wadding, a few beads, my favourite buttonhole stitch, backing fabric and here's the result:

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If I have time, I may add a few more beads!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

TIF June - better late than never...................

I've been in a bit of a mess for the last month or more. Access to my work room has been interrupted by plumbing and wiring and I've had to act as plumber's and electrician's mate.It will only be for a week or so, said the Boss. But I knew better, so I did a bit of preparation and that led to my TIF submission for June.

So that's one side of the story. The other is a kind of evolution. I'm having a table at this year's Lammas Fair on the seafront and I wanted to make some mermaids to sell. The inspiration came from previous TIFs - so I really have taken it further. In January I admired Alexander Fleming for his discovery, and based my design around that. But I also admired Constance Howard for her innovation (who doesn't?) and Winsome Davies for her hand embroidered 3D items, mostly toys. The Winsome inspiration carried through to February, when I remembered Jack Frost patterns on the windows.

So I designed a fish-faced Merbabe based on the Jack Frost pattern and made up a whole lot of body parts ready to assemble and embellish while I watched the TV in the evenings after the DIY shift!

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Monday, June 30, 2008

Blog Title

I've recently discovered that there is a 'facebook' type site called 'Smockery' - this site seems to be saucier, sexier or downright ruder, depending on your perspective. Anyway, this appears to be the explanation why I have been getting rather personal email messages from people I don't know (cases of mistaken identity, I think). So I've modified the names of my Blogs, I'm now known as S'Mockery Sm'Art - because I might be saucy, sexy or downright rude, but that's nobody's business but mine!!!

Thursday, June 05, 2008


I had real trouble with both April and May concepts. I think it is because they were 'too personal' for me. I'm not introspective in any way - and I don't really have a message in the things I make. But I did notice that May's concept woke up the old 'art versus craft' debate again, so here's a quick response knocked up in PaintShop Pro in the accursed 15 minute project fashion.

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It's definitely a bit of a cheat, but I didn't want to let the month go by without doing SOMETHING!

Friday, April 18, 2008

TIF - April -Change and Counter Change

I've made a CHANGE to my profile. Grandson number 3 arrived last week, a fortnight late and weighing in at 9lbs 4oz. Of course, I am thrilled to bits!

And Counterchange. Changing the appearance of a patterned fabric by manipulating it.

I've chosen really simple examples, gingham check and small polkadot.

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Tucking and pleating

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Counterchange smocking, you don't have to gather it first, you just pick up according to the pattern. Not as stretchy as traditional gathered smocking.

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Gathered and smocked in the traditional way.

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Gathered and smocked polkadots.

Lots of design opportunities with these techniques.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Where's this?

I'm still scribbling, having started, can't seem to stop!

The word for Illustration Friday last week was Garden.

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Any of you Americans know where this is?

We were there with the family in 2004 and this is my grandson when he was three. How many other children must have sat on that sculpture!

Coloured pencil on white cartridge paper with a bit of scraffito.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

TIF - March - details - scribbling

I have to say, this month's challenge has encouraged me to get the sketchpad out again! Drawing something really makes you examine it quite closely and 'get the feel of it'. I've noticed at least one other participant similarly affected.

Here's a closeup sketch of a poppy from my garden.

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Not one of my best.....coloured pencil on inferior paper. I was disappointed with this so I decided to play around with it in Paintshop Pro, looking for inspiration...

First I tried a contour effect:

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then I tried adding a coloured foil effect to the original:

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OOOOoooooooooo! Manipulating images like this creates lots of possibilities. No need to throw away those bad sketches any more!

I'm really enjoying this month's challenge as a purely paper exercise, so a big THANK YOU to Sharon for nudging me in this direction.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Illustration Friday - Leap (TIF March)

Having trouble with this month's Take if Further challenge concept.

Did this quick sketch, prompted by this week's Illustration Friday theme, while mulling it over:

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Titled "Leap into Spring"

March is the month for mad hares!

Needs more work on the hare in the foreground to bring it forward, which reminds me that the closer it is, the sharper the details you can see and the colour blue gives depth and makes backgrounds seem further away.

Friday, February 29, 2008

TIF - February - Memories - Jack Frost 2

Here's Jack Frost number Two. Made with the more 'experimental' fabric that I originally rejected.

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(I need to work on those noses!)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

TIF - February - Memories - Jack Frost

Here's Baby Jack Frost number One.

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I caught a bit of the 'sparkle' in this photo. I used knitting yarn with metallic strands for the hair and pearlescent paint for the eyes. I'm having real trouble with faces that are not 'natural' colours. I'm not too pleased with this one. It is something I will have to do a bit more work on. Have to get the sketch book and crayons out!

I decided not to slash the fabric on the back, but I put this back view in just because I think it's cute!

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(Arlee, thanks for the tip. This time I improvised a 'light box' with a white tablecloth and a transparent plastic coffee table - much better, but I could do with some sunshine!)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

TIF Feb - First Frost

Here's the first 'Baby Frost' body, all embellished. It's dark here today, so the photo isn't as good as I would like, but you get the idea?

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I've used white and pastel coloured threads, pearl and glass beads and pearly sequins. Unfortunately, the 'twinkle' doesn't show up very well in the photograph but in real life it is quite sparkly!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

TIF Feb - thought!

I've looked again at that messy body fabric. First I tried looking at it through a 'body shaped' window.

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and you know what? It really doesn't look that bad after all.

Then I turned it over:

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and that looks more like snow. So now I don't know which side to use....

And it looks as though I shall make two frost dolls instead of one!

Friday, February 22, 2008

TIF Feb - still thinking (sulking)

I went off and made some more Mer Baby bodies, and while I was doing that, I thought I would use a similar technique for a Jack Frost. This is what I did:

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This is the same pattern as the Mer Baby, except it has a vertical line stitched for the legs. I was considering trying to add some pointed boots, but I like the baby all-in-one effect so I decided to leave it as it is.

I put a fine white cotton over a blue dish cloth and then used a selection of spiky preprogrammed machine stitches to 'quilt' the two layers together. The plan is to add some hand stitched 'frost' patterns over the top, and I think I will slash between the vertical patterns to show the blue underneath on the back section.

I'm still thinking (sulking) about the other body fabric I made..................

Thursday, February 21, 2008

TIF Feb - not much success with this mess!

Here's the first stage of making the body for my Jack Frost doll.

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I've used a blue dish cloth with different thicknesses of knitting yarn and a variety of spiky stitches to represent the lines of the frost pattern.

Here it is after running through the embellisher with added silk roving and lines of machine stitching:

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Frankly, it's a mess and not at all the effect I was after. Irritating, isn't it, when what's in your head doesn't come out the end of the needle???!!!

I shall go off and do something else while I think about (sulk over) it.

Monday, February 18, 2008

TIF February

I've been thinking about making friendship/spirit dolls for my table at the Llammas Fair later this year. I've made a start by adapting my simple doll pattern to make a 'mer-baby'

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I made the body/tail fabric by 'sandwiching' metallic sweet wrappers between a felt-type wasing up cloth and sone sheer fabric. Then I 'quilted' it with programmed machine stitches and hand embroidery and added beads.

while I was testing the pattern, I was thinking about TIF and Jack Frost. I've adapted the pattern again, to make a 'Baby Frost'. This is my photo reference:

The plan is to make the body of the doll in blue, with white stitching to suggest frost. White face and arms. Spiky white hair. Sparkle added with sequins and beads. Possibly pointed shoes.

A different type of design method to January - this grew from something else I was doing, with very little drawing or planning.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

TIF Feb - Memories - Later Years

A stitch in time: Signing up for City & Guilds Creative Embroidery.

I wanted something to occupy me while I watched TV with the other occupant of the house! Painting, my other passion, was too messy and needed too much equipment so I thought I would try some embroidery. As I got better and more creative I thought (in one of those Gestalt moments we have heard about) ‘this is not just a craft, this is art!’ I wanted to do it as well as I possibly could. When I saw a City & Guilds course advertised I went along to see the students’ work. In response to another of those light-blinding moments, I signed on in 1991 and I carried on going on and off, between work contracts, for the next eight years; purely for the joy of it. There were times when studying embroidery took precedence over almost everything else. Whenever I came across a new technique or a new idea I had to try it out immediately. Each new book or magasine had to be devoured at once. The house was a mess; every available surface was covered with snippets and threads and my hands were always coloured from the dye bath. Yet still I strove to be neater and more innovative. I was never satisfied. Nothing has changed!

At last I have my topic for design

All this reminiscing has finally given me my subject for this month's Take it Further Challenge. I can remember the days before central heating - tracing with my finger the frost patterns on the inside of the bedroom windows in the winter mornings. It was the first thing we did on those cold dark mornings at the beginning and end of the year - leap out of bed and rush to the windows to see if 'Jack Frost had been' and marvel at his beautiful patterns. Sometimes, to me, they looked like pine tree branches, or spiky barbed wire, and other times like curled acanthus leaves. This gave the name 'frosted glass' to the glazing material that was produced to give privacy to bathrooms and the like, now superceded by 'opaque' patterned glazing. (The old style frosted glass produces great rubbings - I wonder if I can find some?). My daughter has never seen frost on the inside of windows in the house, and nor have my grandchildren - they were fascinated when I told them about it!

Here's a nice link to some information about frost

and here's another

Lots of inspiration for me!

TIF Feb - Memories - Early Years

Now here's an odd thing. I've noticed that this month's challenge is making a few of us set to and WRITE as well as design. Enjoying these little snippets from people's past lives made me think of some of my own. So, unusually for me, here goes; just a few disjointed and very personal memories for no particular reason:

Thunderbolts and lightning
When I was a toddler, we lived right on the top of a hill. One night there was a terrific thunderstorm. I was very excited and I wanted to go outside and watch the lightning. My Dad caught me as I was on my way out of the door. ‘You see that lightning?’ he said, ‘well, if that hits you, you will sizzle up just like a rasher of bacon.’ I’d seen my breakfast cooking lots of times. I knew all about this. I have been afraid of thunderstorms ever since and even now, fifty years on, whenever there is a thunderstorm I can smell frying bacon.

Robert Danahaugh and the dinner queue

Robert Danahaugh was in my class at school when I was about six. He was one of a family of seven or eight children (even more than me, we were six!) He was shabbily dressed, grubby, with warts on his knees and a runny nose. Each morning the teacher called him up to the front of the class. She tore a piece from one of the board cleaning rags and presented it to him, with an admonishment for ’not having a handkerchief at all never mind a clean one.’ To add to his humiliation, Robert, along with a handful of similarly afflicted children, was made to queue up on the opposite side of the dining room to me and be served last because he qualified for free school meals. I didn’t understand why the teacher was so horrid to Robert, but I did know that the other kids took notice of it and teased him and he didn’t have many friends. I knew that this was wrong when I was six, and I did not like that teacher. (I didn’t like Robert much either, but so what?) Now I know that such treatment can affect a child for life - causing low self esteem, anger, resentment, lack of achievement.

TIF Feb - Memories - Growing Up

Confused by the tabloids

To understand this, you need to know about me at around 12 years old. I was a voracious reader. If it was printed, I devoured it. At 11 I had access to a whole adult library. I read novels, biographies, travel books about the places Dad was stationed during the war, and medical textbooks. So, I was well-read, unworldly, not at all street-wise and had what my Mum called ‘an unhealthy interest in my insides.’

This was the beginning of the era of the contraceptive pill (of which I had read) and sexual permissiveness (of which I knew nothing).

One day, Dad said there was something in the Daily Mirror that I ought to read. If I didn’t understand it, I should come and ask him. He handed over the centre pages. In those days, newspapers put anything you wouldn’t want Granny or the kids to see in the middle, so you could lift it out and hide it! This ‘middle’ was about sexually transmitted diseases, known then as VD. ‘Oh, this looks interesting.’ I thought and set to. (Remember, this was a kid whose idea of a treat was to be allowed to stay up and watch ‘Your Life in Their Hands’) Symptoms and treatment were plain sailing to a child with a taste in literature like mine. Confusion came with how to get it and how to avoid it. According to the ‘Mirror’ you got this from having sex, but only if you were not married. I knew all about bacteria, viruses, parasites, antibiotics and immunisations but ‘casual sex’ was not in my vocabulary (or the ‘Mirror’s, apparently). Consequently I reasoned that something must happen when people got married that prevented infection. Poor Dad, I don’t know what he was expecting, but to be asked why you couldn’t just have the vaccination BEFORE you got married completely floored him!

Friday, February 01, 2008

TIF Jan08 - Just a little bit more................

I couldn't resist working into this to a bit more to give it more definition and to tie the two motifs together. I think it's an improvment.

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I added more colour by stippling with ink and added to the texture with more hand stitching.

Here's a close-up:

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I haven't finished with this bit of design work. I have it mind that the pieces I did for this month's challenge will be samples for a much bigger piece of work.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

TIF Jan2008 - Time for Just One More....

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Here's a closeup to show the textured surface.

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I've worked into this version a bit more than the previous ones. There is much more additional hand stitching and some extra ink added on top for definition.

If I were to really stretch things to get back to my original concept, I suppose I could say this is how Fleming felt when he realised what he had found - hence the title 'Hatchling - The Dawning'. But frankly, that's just pretentious!!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

TIF Jan08 - Just under the wire.........................

a couple more design ideas and a WIP. The designs are now getting slightly more complicated - I may need to explore some different techniques.

Hatchling - Life Cycle

Hatchling - Follow Me

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

TIF Jan08 - Lots More Mileage

It's nearly the end of the month, but I couldn't resist a bit more fiddling around with the design motifs. Some more 'manipulating':

There is loads more mileage in these motifs. I dare say I will revisit this work at some later stage.