Friday, 31 December 2010

Rounding off 2010

I have spent the last few days trying to bring order to the chaos of my sewing room. Nothing grand, it has to be able to be turned back into a spare room when we have multiple guests, but it gets very untidy and I really don't have enough spaces to put things. Added to this I am really bad at throwing things away! I always think that it might come in useful somewhere down the line!
I have thrown out no end..... Old books I'll never look at again, out of date magazines, culled for odd images and articles which are now filed. The shelf unit is done and tomorrow I have the fabric stash cupboard to deal with. Things are now more logically stored, but I suspect I need to label the drawers, or I will spend valuable time trying to recall where I put things! The thought of starting a new year with a tidy, ordered space is a good one.
I feel quite up about the progress I have made on my journey this year, the JQ's have certainly helped boost my ability to produce a series of work; the Region 7 challenge was just that, and I will approach any further group efforts with more confidence. The UFOs have dwindled to just 2 and they will be done before too long and more than anything I have so enjoyed the time working away with fabric and thread and am really looking forward to the JQ challenge for next year; spending a day a month with Bren Boardman working on a series of small quilts and my big aim of producing a quilt for NEC in August.
Full set of 2010 JQs assembled for posterity, then they go into storage!(Yes I know the photos wonky, can't get far enough away from them to photograph properly!)

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Hold on tight stripy horse!

Finally I have finished the second snuggle quilt! I really did take on more than I could reasonably do in the time, so its been a bit rushed and I'm really not happy with the way the fleece backing behaved, or was it just my ineptitude! However it has shown me that i can deal with representational figures and that should I want to include some in future I can do so with some confidence.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010


We have just returned from a wonderful family Christmas, 11 of us, foodies all, who have eaten and quaffed our way through some of the most delicious food ever! We make it easy for the host as each "family" is responsible for an element of the feast. This year we were treated to a fish feast on Christmas eve, roast beef on Christmas day and home made raised meat pies for boxing day. Nibbles, puddings and cheeses completed the picture!
It was however sad not to have my Dad with us, but we went and had a Christmas with him just before. He is in a British Legion Nursing Home a couple of hundred miles from here and the price of places to rent over Christmas is so high when you need to sleep 11-13 people it just wasn't a possibility.
Celebrations over - I am now setting to and clearning up my sewing room ready for the challenges of the new year!
All good wishes for 2011.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

December JQ

Despite my fears, I am relieved to have completed the challenge within the set time! This month my JQ is the image for my Christmas Cards. The background is my own printed fabric, from a plastazote block made from baking beans and printed with acrylic paints. The background is quilted using a double needle which really saved me some time! The image appliqued and some decorative stitching applied. I tried to put a couple of Christmas garlands in the background, but my base fabric is too busy and the machine stitched too small, so they are rather lost.
I have so enjoyed this monthly challenge, I wish I had made myself keep to the original theme, even though my creative ideas were running a bit thin, a series of 12 would have been a lovely set to keep. As it is I have put a set of three ready to hang and plan to put another three together in the same way, the rest as they say will be history!!
The discipline has been really good for me and I now know that I must take time in January to plan a series not just one month at a time, not that this means that I will have to adhere rigidly to the plan, but this way I should have a collection worthy of the name.
Roll on January and finding out what the next challenge is!

Sunday, 19 December 2010

November JQ

I am finally catching up on all the bits and pieces that have to be finished! For the November JQ I have gone back to the "Cogs" sketchbook and looked at whether there was a little bit of inspiration that could be squeezed from the material I had accumulated there. If time were on my side I would now have a go at another version of this idea, making good the mistakes and using the experience to refine the idea, but.... time is not on my side so this will have to be submitted, with note to self to do better next time!!
I am quite please with the effect from using the heat gun on the voille and the multicoloured thread on the background quilting which provides a sense of movement.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

October JQ

I have really lost the plot this autumn! I found it really easy to plan and execute the first 9 JQs and then ran out of steam because the theme ran dry. I have been struggling to decide what to do and now I have 3 to do in short order!
I have undertaken to make far too many things for people for Christmas and this has meant there has been a tight deadline for these as well and I am really am quite a devastatingly successful procrastinator!
Margaret Cooter from CQ send these amazing links to textile sites across the world which I just have to look at, so, even less time for stitching.
Have to do better next year!

Saturday, 11 December 2010


I have just spent 2 days up in Yorkshire - and can't believe how much snow they still have. Its been so cold that it has remained white and fluffy, where not walked over but compacted and icy on the untreated roads and pavements. The countryside looks fabulous but it must make ordinary life really hard.
I had forgotten how imposing the Minster is, especially when you happen upon it from the small medieval streets that surround it, it just dominates and on Thursday with blue sky and sunshine it looked so beautiful.
I have now delivered Jan's quilt and the two snuggle quilts for the great nephews so can now get back to the real business - 3 JQ's to finish before the end of the month!!
I'm really looking forward to finding out what the JQ challenge will be next year.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010


Here, we have not been troubled by the huge snow falls experienced elsewhere but it has been very cold. Its been sad not to be able to try out some snow dyeing but all in all we've been lucky. The days have often been bright and sunny and this morning there was such a heavy frost I couldn't resist taking some photos!
It feels so crisp and bright out, wrapped up against the cold its lovely. I really do not like the days where the sky feels that it is down on top of my head, where it barely gets light all day and I need the lights on to do anything - that's my idea of winter hell. I'd be no good as a northern European with so little winter daylight.

Christmas snuggle rugs

I have finally finished one of the little quillows for our great nephews, its been a bit learning curve as I'm not really into representational images. I've learned alot and won't make the same mistakes again - with any luck our great nephews (2 and 1yr olds) wont notice these! I will be interested to see if they are well received or not, but I have enjoyed making them! :)

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Jan's Quilt - ready to go

I have so enjoyed making Jan's Quilt. Every process, from getting to grips with EQ7, drawing up the blocks and designing the top to ferreting at FoQ for the right fabrics, stitching the blocks and even the quilting!
My course with Angie Hughes this year has really improved my confidence with machine quilting, embroidery. Its made such a difference to what I'm prepared to have a go at, and I so much prefer the look and feel of a machine quilted piece to one that has been hand quilted.
The hard thing is that having spent 3 months with these fabrics and then the quilt it feels sad having to let it go!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Absent without leave!!!

Why do I always dream up these really good ideas for Christmas gifts? I then get bogged down in getting them finished in the required time. Yes I know its still November but some will have to be delivered in early December..... so, yes, the panic is on!
So... since getting back from the fabulous trip to Jordan I have had to finish Jan's quilt (more on that later) and make 2 quillows for my great nephews and a gift for a friend. I have been working so hard and playing with my new HTC phone that I've neglected my blog!
You see I found these two charming story books which I knew the boys would enjoy and the images were so tempting that I just had to consider a small snuggle blanket to go with each book.
I was so pleased that the publisher was willing to give permission to use the images and I am now stitching and quilting the second one.
Strictly, they are not quilts! They have a top layer with applique shapes which is then backed with fleece.
They are a new departure for me, as a rule, I don't do pictorial or representational pieces so I am learning as I go along. They will never be works of art, but that's OK as they are made for use not as ornament or heirloom.
I've included a picture of the whole so far, a closeup of "Larry" and the book "Introducing Limelight Larry" by Leigh Hodgkinson, published by Orchard Books

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Traveling to Jordan

Its been a bit quiet here as I have been away on a trip of a lifetime to Jordan. We managed to squeeze in swimming in the Dead Sea, 4 wheel drive safari in Wadi Rum, putting our toes into the Red Sea and 2 fabulous days in Petra. Nothing quite prepares one for the extent of the desert or the brightness of the sun reflected off the barren landscape. The action of wind and water has sculpted this country into deep ravines, rocky outcrops and acres of wild untouched land that will grow nothing.
The desert is beguiling - the quality of the light, the huge open expanse, the colours and the ever changing scene before one - images I will never forget.
Petra was fascinating - it doesn't matter that one of the most iconic photos, the Treasury, is so well known - the moment it comes into view after the long walk down the Siq is magical and then the exploration of this huge site in the heat and dust is just such an exotic experience. I loved every moment of it, and had I been fitter, I'd have loved another day or two just to explore.

A Reunion!

On the 16th October a group of ex-Leeds Poly/Uni students from the class of 1968 met up for a reunion in the year we are all 60! We had a fabulous time in London - we went to see "Jersey Boys" and of course we all knew all the words and it brought back alot of memories. Then we spent the evening chatting, eating and drinking as the years just fell away. Two of us came over from Australia and two from Isreal while the rest of gathered from all corners of the UK. Friends made at that time of life just seem to be able to drop back in place even though its years since we all last met up. We has such fun we plan to do another for our 65th birthday year!

Monday, 11 October 2010

The Artist's Way - Julia Cameron

I do my serious reading before I get up, comfortably propped up with a cup of tea! In preparation for my day a month course next year I am reading outside my comfort zone. This book sets out to help the reader discover and recover their creative selves. It forces the reader to recognise the blocks they use to circumvent their art work but at times uses language that I find difficult to take. Its shown me that I use my "Enemy within" to justify not making what I'd like to make rather than what I know I can make! This I think needs to be the focus of my work with Brenda Boardman next year.
The book has also shown me that I do some of the right things - I do take myself, and friends, on Artists Dates, I do have supportive friends and most of all I do allow myself time and space to do what I love to do - Stitch! So.... thanks Bren for making me take a step outside the usual.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Experimental pieces for Angie's class - 3

Using the same spray dyed background I have tried appliqueing the basic shapes and then adding voile, machine embroidery and foils in a different colourway. Quite pleased with the results. Perhaps the end product will be a small series of works rather then a major piece.
This is taking up a lot of my time and I'm itching to get started on quilting Jan's piece which is sandwiched up ready and waiting - will make time to get started this week.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Experimental pieces for Angie's class - 2

I used the applique sample to try out ways of adding the detail to each section.
Right - free machine stitches made to cross the fabric - 3 strand embroidery thread as stem stitch and as long stitch. I like the effect that this stitch creates but will need to applique the shape in place first.
Middle - Ordinary machine stitch across the fabric - glass beads and single strand embroidery thread detail. I want to try this again replacing the beads with the free machine zig-zag used in the right sample which is more effective than the beads.
Left - Couched textured threads. Too heavy, need to try with a narrower thread.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

New page layout

What do you think? Its a bit less stark and the neutral ground sets off pictures well, or does it?
Feedback please!

Experimental pieces for Angie's class

As I will miss the October session, I need to try and get well ahead of the game. I need to produce a piece (some pieces) for the end of the course and I want to use the design work I did last month. Initial design is shown in an earlier post.
So..... I have spent today trying out different techniques for creating the pattern I want. I have spray dyed some backgrounds, with varying degrees of success, cut stencils from Freezer Paper and applied fabric shapes to a background, then I have experimented with discharging areas. Once all these are dry, I'll then try different styles of stitching on them.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Simple stitched book covers

The CQ coffee morning at Festival of Quilts was a wonderful collection of demonstrations for visitors to watch. I was lucky to be a helper to Sue Turner and her "Cheats Quilting" presentation. Having watched her demo 6 times that morning I felt able to have a go at the technique myself!
She used the technique to make a number of different artifacts, but I have concentrated on making book covers.
You can use fabric that you are now unsure why you bought in a sandwich, Lining, pelmet vilene or wadding, then the fabric - plus an artificial silk flower that is pulled into its constituent parts and a piece of voile over it all.
Stitch round the flowers and then machine embroider over the rest of the fabric. Cut to size, neaten edges and then make braids to act as fastenings. Easy and really effective. I have to produce some items for a charity stall at Christmas so have now made 4 of these which I think should sell quite well.
Great fun to do and I have used up some of the real howler fabrics I have in the stash!

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Travels with some stitchers!

I have just returned from 4 wonderful days in the company of six other stitchers from Market Harborough Embroiderers' Guild on a trip to Cumbria, and points between. A brilliantly conceived mix of interesting events, tutorials, visits, shopping opportunities and excellent food with lots of laughs!
The long journey north was punctuated with a visit to the "Wool& Textile Craft Fair" in Walkley near Sheffield. Here we found exhibits of local crafts, exhibits of exquisite machine embroidery by Sue Lancaster and sales tables with everything you could ever have wanted to indulge spinning, weaving, knitting enthusiasts! We also found a great stop off at Mainsgill Farm Shop between Scotch Corner and Penrith for coffee and cakes! ( a regular theme of the holiday!) Our "home" while away was "The Fat Lamb" near Kirby Stephen - so friendly and welcoming, delicious food and the noisiest creaking floorboards ever! Our fellow guests were a little taken aback to find us stitching away in the bar of an evening!
We visited "The Quaker Tapestry" in Kendal, a stunning set of 70 panels of crewel embroidery telling the story of the Quaker movement, stitched by folk around the world, a moving testament. Blackwell Arts and Crafts House on Winmdermere - finished in 1900 and recently restored to its former glory, making a house one would love to live in.
We spent a whole day at Farfield Mill just outside Sedburgh. A stunning old woollen mill now forming an artists' cluster of workshops and exhibition spaces. We had 2 tutorials from Mary Taylor, and exquisite embroiderer, firstly on her methods for jewellery construction and later in the day on her landscape embroideries. Such a generous teacher, sharing her work and providing a lovely insight into her design processes - Also had a chance to see Alice Kettle's "Allegory" exhibition - a really lovely day!
Our final day took us down to Bradford, to Texere Yarns and a chance to buy yarns, beads, threads of every conceivable shade and weight in their Aladdin's cave and a workshop in Sheffield with Sue Lancaster on Dorset Buttons, a strangely addictive craft which I think we will all be using in some way another time.
It has been lovely to share all this with kindred spirits, how lucky to have found such a brilliant group to be a member of.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Mark making workshop

My day a month course this time looked at mark making and at ways of creating design ideas for the terrified drawer - which I am!
It was a very liberating day - and taught me a methodology that I think I can use to stimulate ideas for my quilts. I really want to move away from the more traditional but need the underpinning of good basic designs. It has come at a really good time for me as I have signed up for the "Independent Study Group" tutored by Brenda Boardman as day a month programme for 2011. I am delighted to be doing this, I need the rigor and the stimulation one gets from other artists and the creative criticism. At least now I feel I have a methodology for creating initial design ideas and who knows where I can then go with them!

Monday, 13 September 2010

Time Management

I was sent a link to an ebook which discussed methods of organising ones time. My behaviour on receiving it betrays the issues I have with time management and finding time for creative work!
The document, by Mark McGuiness, sets out the blocks and strategies for overcoming them. Well worth a read.
What I did was not only to open and download the document, but to read it, then and there! Interrupting what I was really doing and so disrupting that morning's activity! The very thing the article warns one against.
So...... I realise that if I am to really make something of my creativity I have to address the "magpie" behaviour ( ooh that looks interesting, I'll have a go at that, tell me how you did that, brilliant I'll have a go tonight!! etc.) The article recommends "To do" lists, which I have always used - but I realise that I am not systematic about using them. I'm going to start now to be more focused, and when the next person suggests I try something new - its going to have to be a NO unless it actually pushes what I am really doing forward! Very brave, if I can do it.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Linda Miller Workshop

I was really lucky to take part in a whole day Linda Miller workshop run by Market Harborough Embroiderers on Saturday. She is an excellent teacher, precise and clear a sense of humour and prepared to push you to create something worthwhile!
We all did a simple introductory exercise to learn the technique. We all stitch a small badge sized heart with background and details and then had 1:1 tutorial to decide on our own piece.I was surprised by how well I was able to cope with in intricacies of the style and it led me to bite off a bit more than could chew as a 1st attempt!!
I had found a picture of a boat in a harbour, lots of horizontal detail and reflections in the water. I've learned alot doing it, I did finish the piece and I now know what I will need to do if I try the technique again, which I think I will for cards especially.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Festival of Quilts

I was lucky to be able to be there for 2 days this year. What a fantastic collection of work, materials and inspiration. I am always blown away by the variety of the work on show and the quite exquisite workmanship that is apparent on so may pieces. This year I thought that there were fewer beautifully made quilts that left me cold - more contemporary pieces and certainly more experimental works.
The retail opportunities were legion and I certainly made my purse lighter! I actually think the hall is now too small for the number of exhibitors/traders not enough room to get a good look at the work and the scrummage round the stalls was too much.
I enjoyed two excellent lectures: Sandra Meech on the process of turning drawings and observations into textiles and Sara Impey on her wonderful textural quilts, especially on the importance of the message in each of her pieces.
Contemporary Quilt put on an excellent Saturday Coffee Morning with 6 demonstrators sharing the secrets of their beautiful work, which was very well received.
I admired Uta Lenk's "Play of Lines" quilt, as I'm interested in exploring the use of curves in my work. I'd have chosen to use more colour, but the technique was interesting.
My favourite piece this year was "February Catkins - February light" by Catherine Brierley - images of the patterns made by twigs against the sky, beautifully thought out and executed. I also likes Ineke Berlyn's piece on the theme "Summer in the City" - bright, graphic images appealed to me alot.
I must try to complete a piece for next year's show.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

August JQ

I got a bit carried away when doing Angie's homework and made my sample too big to be used as a JQ! So I have had to think up something different. In the July JQ I used black voille to subdue some areas of the work. It was effective but the burning away of areas of the voile did not work so well, as it slightly damaged the surface of the velvet and meant that the quilting thread, Madeira, melted too!
So I thought about other ways in which one could "knock back" areas of a design. I've experimented with very close quilting in a brighter colour and then looked at whether hand stitching would do the same job. As an experiment its been worth while, but there is limited artistic merit in the outcome!

Sunday, 22 August 2010

The Big Six O!

Now we don't have to go away in August, we choose not to - and just potter in the UK until all the children have back to school when its then OK to travel! So we went up to Berwick upon Tweed and the Borders for a few days - new territory for us and some quite stunning places to visit and wild scenery. We stayed in a lovely, restaurant with rooms / boutique hotel in Berwick called 1 SallyPort. Very well appointed rooms and a stunning menu, friendly and in the middle of town. A faded Georgian garrison town with walls to walk and some of the best castles and beaches within a short distance.
We visited Lindisfarne - very evocative and quite humbling when you think of its long history - small scale castle and lovely gardens. Then drove down to Bamburgh with its magnificent castle.
Next we went up to St Abbs Head, over the border. Wonderful cliffs and coastal paths now that the gannets have flown! Stunning rugged coast and interesting little village.
3 brilliant meals - Oblo in Eyemouth - and Sally Port. where the figs in palma ham then the halibut and finally the lemon posset were some of the best dishes I have had in a long while. To be recommended.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Jan's Quilt

Its been great fun experimenting with the stash of fabrics to try out some blocks for the quilt. I've 1 each of the 3 styles I thought I'd use, in the full quilt the fabrics will be different in each block although the basic block shape will stay the same.
Then I stitched them together and had a go at different ways to quilt each block. I really like the close quilting and the machine equivalent of tieing which I've used on the random strip pieced block.
Jan will see them next week and then I can get started for real!
Sadly I still have some UFO's to finish, but I really can't wait any longer to be creative!

Sunday, 1 August 2010

A new beginning - Jan's Quilt

My sister-in-law has asked if I'll make her a quilt. Her colour scheme suites me and I've got free rein over designs and fabrics within the palette - joy! I was surprised by the number of fabrics I have already, and can probably make the whole thing with perhaps 3 or 4 fat quarters to add to the stash, that seems a very good deal.
The photo is of the stash and one of my initial design ideas. Next week I can show these to Jan and get started. I'll make some sample block next week and try some quilting designs on them as its quite hard for a non quilter to be able to visualise the finished effect from a drawing.
I've got EQ7 as a present, and I'm really pleased with the improved functionality over EQ5 and think it will make the sort of work I'm doing a great deal easier. I can so well remember the days of multiple sheets of graph paper and colouring pencils which took forever and the effort of having to draw out each new idea in full, thank goodness for modern technology!